Spain’s prime minister said on Sunday the country needed 15 more days of lockdown until June 21 “to finish with the pandemic once and for all”, and will ask parliament to approve a final two-week extension to the stay-home rule.
“We have almost set out what we set out to do,” Pedro Sanchez told a press conference, as he expressed his intense relief that the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Spain, one of the nations hardest-hit by the virus, had fallen dramatically.
From June 21, a national state of emergency will end and with it the lockdown, allowing citizens to move freely in their regions.
From July 1, citizens will be able to move throughout the country.
Spain’s death toll rose by two on Sunday to 27,127, the health ministry said, while the number of COVID-19 infections rose by 96 overnight to 239,429.
Spain imposed a state of emergency on 14 March which involved a strict lockdown under which people could only leave their homes to buy food, seek medical care or for jobs where they could not work from home. Children were initially confined inside all day. Restrictions are being gradually eased.
Despite opposition to the most recent lockdown extension from parties on the right and demonstrations across Spain, Sanchez has struck a deal with a Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) which should guarantee his minority government secures enough support to extend the lockdown.
The current state of emergency is set to expire on June 7.
Sanchez says this final stretch of the lockdown will include the handing back of control over health care to the regions that have shown the most progress in containing the virus.
“We have almost reached safe harbour,” Sanchez said.
The central government is slowing rolling back confinement measures depending on which areas have fewer infections and are better prepared for a possible second outbreak. The focus is now on maintaining the virus in check while reactivating an economy that Sanchez’s said will shrink by over 9% this year and take two years to recover.