CORONAVIRUS

Spanish government does U-turn, will allow children aged 14 and under out for walks

Earlier in the day, the Cabinet had decided that minors would only be able to leave the house to go to the supermarket, pharmacy or bank with a parent or guardian

Health Minister Salvador Illa during Tuesday's press conference.
Health Minister Salvador Illa during Tuesday's press conference.Moncloa / EFE

Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Tuesday evening that children aged 14 and under will, in the end, be allowed to leave their homes for accompanied walks from April 26 onward, after plans announced by the Cabinet earlier in the day to restrict such trips outside for youngsters to just visits to the supermarket, pharmacies or banks were widely criticized. The minister made clear that these latter activities will still be permitted for those aged 14 and under, while those aged 15 to 17 will be able to carry them out alone according to a statement made earlier in the day by the government spokesperson, María Jesús Montero.

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.

Earlier story

After its weekly meeting today, the Cabinet announced that children aged 14 and under will be allowed out of the home accompanied by an adult under the same conditions that currently apply according to coronavirus confinement measures introduced on March 14 when a state of alarm was implemented by the Spanish government.

Speaking at a press conference earlier today, 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.” That meant that minors would not have been able to leave the house with adults to go for a walk in the open air.

The Socialist Party (PSOE)-Unidas Podemos coalition government has imposed 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.

This weekend I will issue an order so that children aged 14 and under can go out for walks
Health Minister Salvador Illa

The ongoing confinement of children had already 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.

The government’s announcement earlier today about the relaxation of confinement measures for children was widely rejected by political parties – including those on the left – and members of the public alike on social media, many of whom pointed out that there was a much greater chance of infection for children in a closed space such as a supermarket than in the open air.

“This government listens,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa on Tuesday night about the U-turn. “This weekend I will issue an order so that children aged 14 and under can go out for walks.” He added that the conditions under which minors would be able to leave the house for walks would be “announced soon,” and went on to call for the public “to allow us to finish the details” of the plan, including "maximum time, distance and safety. This is going for a walk, and not going out to shop, which they will also be able to do,” he clarified.

Asked by reporters as to why the Cabinet had changed course on the issue of minors, if, as he had earlier stated, it had taken into account the opinion of experts before reaching its original decision, he said that “the government is going to continue acting with maximum caution, and being very conscious of the tough measures” that are currently in place.

The extension to the current state of alarm will be debated on Wednesday in Congress, and will need the support of other parties if, as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has already announced, it is to be extended from April 27 until May 9.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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