Spain approves ‘new normality’ rules as Covid-19 cases rise

Congress greenlighted a decree listing safety measures for life after lockdown, while labor leaders clinched a deal with the government to extend the ERTE furlough scheme

Health Minister Salvador Illa in Congress on Thursday.
Health Minister Salvador Illa in Congress on Thursday.Pool (Europa Press)

The World Health Organization (WHO)‘s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, on Thursday praised Spain and several other countries for responding quickly to new coronavirus outbreaks, but warned that the continent is experiencing a resurgence in cases as restrictions are lifted.

Spain, which lifted its state of alarm on Sunday, yesterday reported the highest number of new daily infections in three weeks, and health experts are expressing concern about the public’s increasingly relaxed attitude towards prevention measures.

A Red Cross refugee center in Málaga has had an outbreak with 80 positive cases, including workers, volunteers and migrants living at the facility. In Navalmoral de la Mata (Cáceres), authorities have launched a search for an individual at the origin of an outbreak with 20 confirmed and 30 suspected cases who has gone missing. And in Andalusia, authorities are investigating two potential outbreaks in Granada and Huelva. Officials have reported five active clusters across the southern region.

A coronavirus outbreak has been detected at the Red Cross center in Málaga.
A coronavirus outbreak has been detected at the Red Cross center in Málaga.Daniel Pérez (EFE)

The spike in infections comes as the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, on Thursday approved a government decree setting out the rules of Spain’s “new normality” following one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

The decree was introduced by the coalition government of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the leftist Unidas Podemos group, and backed by the main opposition Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (Citizens) and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) for a total of 265 votes in favor. The far-right Vox, the far-left Basque party EH Bildu, and the Catalan separatists of Together for Catalonia and Catalan Republican Left (ERC) voted against.

Health Minister Salvador Illa on Thursday defended the new decree, which includes safety measures intended to avoid a new wave of Covid-19 infections in a country that has already experienced one of the world’s worst epidemics in terms of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and infected healthcare workers.

The regulations make it mandatory to use face masks in closed spaces as well as in open ones if it is not possible to maintain a safety distance of 1.5 meters between people. The decree also includes contingency plans for potential new outbreaks and makes provisions to reinforce primary healthcare services.

Illa insisted that “the danger is still there” and that it is necessary to maintain all necessary precautions to contain the spread of the epidemic. He added that the decree will remain in place until the executive determines that the pandemic has ended.

ERTE is extended

The government, unions and employers have clinched a deal to extend Spain’s furlough scheme, ERTE, to September 30. Under the system, companies suffering losses from the Covid-19 pandemic and the confinement measures can temporarily send home workers or reduce their working hours. Thousands of businesses have filed for ERTEs since a lockdown was introduced in mid-March, but the scheme was due to end on June 30, approximately coinciding with the end of restrictions.

With reporting by Anabel Díez, Javier Casqueiro and Manuel V. Gómez.

English version by Susana Urra.

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