CORONAVIRUS

Spaniards take to the streets for exercise after 48 days of confinement

Health Ministry figures released today show that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Spain has now exceeded 25,000

Citizens on Barcelona’s Paseo Marítimo on Saturday morning.
Citizens on Barcelona’s Paseo Marítimo on Saturday morning.Quique García / EFE

Pedestrians, cyclists and runners took to the streets all across Spain today, as confinement restrictions were partially lifted after 48 days of near-total lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From 6am until 10am, those aged between 14 and 70 could take a walk within a one-kilometer radius of their homes, or practice exercise such as cycling or jogging within their municipality. Residents of municipalities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants do not have to observe timetables for their daily exercise.

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By 10am, however, in cities such as Valencia, the streets were cleared of citizens taking exercise, and seniors came out to enjoy their walks during the 10am to 12pm time frame allocated for the over 70s, and dependents who can go out with their carers if necessary.

In Cádiz, meanwhile, surfers took to the waves once more at the Santa María del Mar beach, after the local mayor, José María González, or ‘Kichi,’ as he is commonly known, announced on Thursday he would allow the sporting activity to take place. Bathers, however, are not yet permitted in the sea.

More than a hundred surfers also enjoyed a dip on Saturday in Gijón, in northern Spain.

In Madrid, the parks remained closed, with the police patrolling to ensure that citizens respected the limits. Some joggers, however, ignored the restrictions and one was caught on camera being ejected from the Madrid Río park by the police. “Now it seems like everyone does sport every day,” an officer is heard to say over the loudspeaker in the video.

In Barcelona, despite some parks being open to the public, there were areas where large numbers of people were coinciding. On the Aigües road, for example, one of the most popular for cyclists in the city, there were dozens of bicycles seen on Saturday morning. According to one of the local police officers who was monitoring the access points, “there are maybe 3,000 people here right now.” Hardly anyone was wearing a mask. A local said that he had “never seen overcrowding like this. It’s unbelievable.”

Arrest in Barcelona

A young woman was arrested in Barcelona on Saturday morning after refusing to stop for police and knocking over a police motorcycle. The woman was jogging outside of the specified timetable near the seafront in Barcelona. As is seen in the video below, she was arrested by the officers while crying for help.

Ministry reports 276 coronavirus deaths

Official figures from the Health Ministry released on Saturday showed that there were 276 coronavirus-related fatalities in the last 24 hours, slightly down from Friday’s figure of 281 and in keeping with the falling trend of recent weeks.

But the number of total Covid-19 deaths in Spain has now passed another grim milestone, with 25,100 recorded victims, according to today’s official figures.

The number of cases confirmed by the most reliable PCR tests now stands at 216,582, according to Saturday’s data, an increase of 1,147 in the last 24 hours. This is the smallest rise since the state of alarm was implemented by the government on March 14.

That said, weekend days and public holidays have led to underreporting since the epidemic took hold in Spain. Given that May 1 was a national holiday, and May 2 is a holiday in Madrid, the figures should be viewed with caution until next week.

There is, however, a clear downward trend in the epidemic. On Saturday, nine regions – Aragón, the Balearic and Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Navarra and La Rioja, as well as the exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla – reported no new admissions of coronavirus patients to their intensive care units (ICUs). Only Madrid and Catalonia saw more than 10 patients admitted to ICUs in the last 24 hours.

Deaths in senior homes

The Madrid regional government has released figures for the number of coronavirus-related deaths in its senior homes, with 5,828 fatalities among residents who were confirmed to have the Covid-19 disease or were suspected to have it since March 8. This is from a total of 7,337 total deaths registered during the same time frame in residences.

According to the figures, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases among the victims stands at 1,126, while 4,702 showed symptoms of the disease but were not tested. A further 1,509 died of other causes.

Investigation into Ifema ceremony

The central government’s delegation in the Madrid region has opened an investigation after politicians from the regional government and City Hall held a ceremony at the Ifema convention center, to celebrate the closure of a field hospital that was set up there in order to treat coronavirus patients. Images from the event caused indignation among opposition politicians and users of social media, given that there were around a thousand people present and the distancing measures set out by the Spanish government under the state of alarm were not being respected.

The two-hour event was attended by health workers, journalists, TV news crews and photographers, and at times they were crowded together without respecting the two-meter distancing that the Health Ministry has been repeatedly recommending in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Madrid premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, both from the conservative Popular Party (PP), were pictured at the event handing out calamari sandwiches from one of the food trucks on the site.

Díaz Ayuso wrote on Twitter that the event “had a controlled capacity.” “Happiness, and spontaneous human gestures from all, overcame us. It is true: we have to celebrate life, but also keep our distance,” she wrote.

Mayor Almeida apologized on Saturday for the event, should it have involved “any behavior that is not compatible with setting an example.”

Madrid’s deputy mayor, Begoña Villacís from the Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, also admitted that errors had been made with the event. “I hope that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

With reporting by Pablo Linde, Bernat Coll and Isabel Valdés.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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