Coronavirus restrictions could be eased in Spain by next week

26 April 2020, 14:14

Catalan police officers patrol as families with their children walk along a boulevard in Barcelona
Catalan police officers patrol as families with their children walk along a boulevard in Barcelona. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Spain could lift some restrictions of its harsh coronavirus lockdown from next week, Spain's prime minister Pedro Sanchez has announced.

The prime minister said he expects to approve more steps relaxing the country's confinement to combat the Covid-19 outbreak at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

One measure will allow outdoor exercise and walks from 2 May. However, this is only if infections continue to reduce.

The news comes as Spain, which has one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, allowed children up to 14-years-old to leave their homes once a day for an hour while accompanied by an adult as of Sunday.

Mr Sanchez said on Saturday: "Maximum caution will be our guideline for the rollback.

"We must be very prudent because there is no manual, no road map to follow."

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The state of emergency that gives force to the confinement measures is due to end on 9 May.

Spain, Italy and France, which have Europe's highest death tolls from the virus, all imposed tough lockdown rules in March.

All have reported significant progress in bringing down infection rates and are ready, warily, to start giving their citizens more freedom.

So far, Spanish adults were allowed out only for essential shopping or to go to work that cannot be done from home.

Children under 14 have been in complete seclusion until Sunday.

They must be within one kilometre of their homes, take only one toy with them and are not allowed to play with other children.

Authorities recommend that parents and children wash their hands before and after outings.

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In France, prime minister Edouard Philippe said he will unveil the "national deconfinement strategy" on Tuesday.

It follows weeks of work by experts on how to find a balance between restarting the eurozone's second-largest economy and preventing a second wave of infections that could overwhelm intensive care units.

French President Emmanuel Macron had already announced that France's lockdown would start to be lifted beginning on 11 May.

Mr Philippe's speech will flesh out the details, covering health, schooling, work, shops, transport and gatherings. The lockdown has been raising tensions in France's poorest areas.

Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce more details easing the lockdown in the coming days for the first European country to see a large-scale coronavirus outbreak.