MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will ask parliament to extend lockdown measures by 15 more days until April 26 as the daily pace of new coronavirus infections and deaths slowed again on Saturday in one of the world’s most hard-hit countries.
Municipal police officers wearing face masks check a car on Gran Via street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain, April 4, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera
After speaking to Sanchez by telephone, opposition leader Pablo Casado tweeted that the premier had informed him “that he will request Congress to extend the state of emergency” for the second time. It was last extended through to April 11.
A government spokeswoman said Sanchez would announce the extension of the state of emergency, which has confined most Spaniards to their homes for three weeks already, at a news conference on Saturday afternoon.
Spain’s total death toll rose to 11,744 – the world’s second highest after Italy – but the 809 people who died from the disease over the past 24 hours, was below Friday’s 932 and down from Thursday’s daily record of 950, the Health Ministry said.
That represented a 7% increase in total deaths, about a third the pace of the around 20% increase registered a week ago.
Meanwhile, the total number of registered infections rose to 124,736 on Saturday from 117,710 on Friday, when Spain overtook Italy in the total number of infections for the first time.
The figures “confirm the downward trend we have seen in the last few days,” said Maria Jose Sierra, the deputy head of Spain’s health emergency.
Still, she acknowledged that “there are many more light cases of coronavirus which are not included in our figures because we are concentrating on the most serious cases”.
Some of Madrid’s most famous tourist sites, such as the Royal Palace and Las Ventas bullring, stood eerily quiet on Saturday, as Spaniards readied themselves for a fourth week living under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
Only employees in essential sectors such as health are free to travel to and from work. Restaurants, bars and shops are shuttered, and social gatherings are banned.
Health officials say the slowdown in new infections proves the effectiveness of the lockdown in place.
Reporting by Michael Gore and Elena Rodriguez and Graham Keeley; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan