CORONAVIRUS

Spanish government confirms details of relaxation of coronavirus confinement measures for minors

From Sunday, children aged under 14 will be able to go out for accompanied walks between 9am and 9pm, within a one-kilometer radius of their homes

A man with his son at a newsstand by La Paz hospital, in Madrid.
A man with his son at a newsstand by La Paz hospital, in Madrid.Samuel Sanchez

From Sunday, children under 14 will be able to go outside once a day between 9am and 9pm within a one-kilometer radius of their homes, accompanied by an adult. That’s according to Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, who appeared at a press conference on Thursday to explain the relaxation of lockdown rules for children, who have been confined in their homes since the state of alarm was declared on March 14 in Spain in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Iglesias began the conference by apologizing to children in Spain over the confusion over the conditions under which children will be allowed to leave their homes.

They will also be able to go out with toys, a ball or a scooter but they cannot go to play areas in parks
Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias

“We have not been completely clear about how you will be able to leave as of Sunday,” said Iglesias. “I know the confinement has not been easy for you and I want to thank you. You have played an important role in the fight against the coronavirus so that we can return as a society and all of society owes you a very big round of applause.”

The Cabinet announced on Tuesday that children under 14 would only be able to leave the house with one parent in order to visit the supermarket, pharmacy or bank, and would not be able to go out for walks. The announcement was met with widespread indignation, both from politicians and members of the public alike, among other reasons, given that the risk of infection is greater in a closed space.

In an abrupt U-turn, the Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday night that the government would, in fact, allow children to go for walks.

At today’s press conference, Iglesias and Illa went into more details about the ministerial order, set to be approved on Saturday, that will allow parents to take their children out for the first time in six weeks.

Under the new rules, an adult will be able to go out onto the street with as many as three children. What’s more, the children will be allowed to run and not just walk.

More than 8.3 million children in Spain have been confined to their homes for six weeks due to the coronavirus lockdown

Iglesias explained that “[children] will be able to run, jump, play sport, respecting physical distancing conditions [...]. They will also be able to go out with toys, a ball or a scooter but they cannot go to play areas in parks.” He said that children living in rural areas will be able to “go for a walk in the woods or the countryside respecting the security measures.” The prime minister added that youngsters experiencing coronavirus symptoms should remain at home.

Health Minister Illa said that these outings must be carried out “with utmost caution” in accordance with the three priorities in the fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus: “Maintain a physical distance of between 1.5 and two meters, frequently wash hands and maintain strict hygiene when using public spaces.” The minister recommended children wear face masks, but warned that this “must not exempt the other three measures.”

Iglesias said that parents should avoid taking children on to the street in “peak hours,” adding that minors will be able to be accompanied by a “responsible adult who lives with them, who could also be an older sibling.” The adult in charge will be responsible for ensuring the child follows the security measures.

Youngsters aged 14 and over will be allowed to leave the house alone in order to perform essential activities as adults can, such as the aforementioned visits to supermarkets, etc.

More than 8.3 million minors in Spain have been confined to their homes due to the coronavirus lockdown, which is one of the strictest in the world. Unlike countries such as France, Italy and Germany, where children are allowed to leave the home for small outings, youngsters in Spain have remained inside for 42 days, unless a parent had no choice but to take them with them to buy essential items.

Expert report

Two weeks ago, the Spanish government commissioned a report from a panel of experts made up of eight pediatric professionals from different areas about relaxation of confinement for children. The report includes a series of recommendations on children’s trips out of the house, including walks of up to 30 minutes a day in areas close to the family residence (including common areas in apartment blocks, the local neighborhood or a garden while there are no other people there).

The experts propose visits to parks without accessing play areas, and also recommend that children aged four and over should wear a mask. The plan includes encouraging children to run and jump without bothering other people and respecting social distancing. As for those aged 14 and under, the report recommends walking, running and individual games, while the proposal for over-14s is that they walk, run, and ride bicycles or manual scooters.

English version by Simon Hunter and Melissa Kitson.

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