Madrid, May 10 (IANS) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called on citizens to maintain vigilance and precaution as approximately half of the country prepares to move into the second stage of a four-phased plan to ease lockdown restrictions which were put in place on March 15 to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Around half of Spain will benefit from the lifting of restrictions, but Sanchez warned in a televised speech on Saturday that “the virus has not disappeared. The fight will continue, and will not end until there is a vaccine”, reports Xinhua news agency.
Many areas, including the Basque Region, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia in the north of Spain, will move into Phase 1 (the second stage) on Monday after meeting the criteria set by Spanish health authorities to ease lockdown restrictions.
These areas will be able to open outside terraces, while shops under 400 square metres can also trade and meetings of up to 10 people within provinces can also be held.
Sanchez said Spain has “demonstrated many things, its huge strengths… What has set it apart has been the magnificent response of the people, thanks to exceptional responsibility and social discipline”, adding that Spain had shown itself to be “humane”, with “all of society joined together by bonds of affection and care”.
“We have saved lives, but we have lost many more,” he continued, “each fatality hurts us. These lives that we have lost weigh heavily”.
“In the meantime, we will have to live alongside the virus, which is why the healthcare system must be reinforced and its capacities strengthened and this will count for little without the responsible efforts of the people,” he explained.
Madrid and Catalonia are among the regions unable to ease lockdown measures for the moment and the Prime Minister repeated that not all Spain would move out of lockdown at the same speed.
“The virus does not end at the provincial borders. The de-escalation will be guided by the principles of scientific advice and prudence,” he informed.
Sanchez also discussed the social and economic problems caused by the virus with almost 600,000 jobs destroyed in two months: “rebuilding means driving the creation of employment as soon as possible. We can achieve this together”, he commented.
According to official data, the COVID-19 death toll currently stands at 26,487 people, with 223,578 confirmed cases.