CORONAVIRUS

Spain to allow children under 14 on accompanied trips to stores, but not out for walks

Youngsters will only be permitted to leave the house for the same reasons as adults under Spain’s state of alarm conditions, which are the strictest in the world

Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero during Tuesday’s press conference.
Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero during Tuesday’s press conference.EFE

After its weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Spanish Cabinet announced that children aged 14 and under would be allowed out of the home accompanied by an adult from April 27, a move that will be the first major relaxation of Spain’s strict coronavirus confinement measures. However, they will only be permitted to go out onto the street under the same conditions that currently apply to adults.

UPDATE: On April 25, the government published an order in the official gazette stating that only children under 14 may benefit from the daily walks. Those between the ages of 14 and 17 may only go out on essential errands.

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Speaking at a press conference, government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said: “We are proposing that from April 27, minors aged 14 and under can accompany an adult on a trip outside of the house, such as going to the supermarket or the pharmacy.” This means that minors will not, for now, be able to leave the house with adults to go for a walk in the open air.

Montero added that youngsters aged between 14 and 18 will be able to make similar trips to stores unaccompanied

Montero added that youngsters aged between 14 and 18 will be able to make similar trips to stores unaccompanied, with authorization from their parents, and said that the restrictions may be relaxed further according to the progress of the coronavirus epidemic.

Spain has the strictest coronavirus confinement measures in the world, and the country’s 8.3 million minors have been shut away in their homes for more than five weeks now, with very few exceptions to the confinement rules that allow them to get out onto the streets – such as if there is no one in the household who could take care of a minor when the parent or guardian has to go to buy essential items. The ongoing confinement of children has prompted criticism among the political opposition and experts alike, who have been warning of the possible adverse effects the situation is having on the health – both physical and mental – of youngsters.

Montero warned that residents of Spain “must act with extreme caution,” and said “we must not lower our guard”

“These weeks have been difficult,” Montero said of the state of alarm in Spain, which was implemented on March 14 and confined Spaniards to their homes, apart from those who can’t telecommute and for trips to buy food or medicines or to go to the bank. “With the necessary caution we can say that the progress of the pandemic in medical terms allows us to harbor a ray of hope. Every day we achieve a little bit more to stop the spread of the virus.”

She warned, however, that residents of Spain “must act with extreme caution,” and said that “we must not lower our guard.” Social distancing must be observed, she said, as well as hygiene measures such as regular handwashing.

With regard to minors, Montero added that “the majority of children have been in their homes, meaning that the probability that they are infected [with the coronavirus] is effectively low. We propose that the release be controlled. We are appealing to the responsibility of parents in order to guarantee safety.”

The plan from Monday, she explained, “is that children can go out with their parents for the activities that are already included in the [state of alarm] decree. The idea is to maintain trips for the reasons already set out. Now these can be done with a minor. There is no time limit. The youngster must go with the adult or person with whom they usually live. The idea is to not break the chain of infection. This will be the only advance in this period. We will be monitoring the progression. The rest of the people in households already carry out these activities, such as going out to buy bread or a newspaper.

“We are not relaxing the confinement measures,” Montero added. “It is the responsibility of adults to comply with these measures.”

The announcement of the measure, however, prompted an immediate reaction from members of the public on social media, who questioned why children should be allowed to enter closed buildings, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, instead of open spaces, where there is lower chance of contagion.

With reporting by Cecilia Jan.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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