Amid criticism from Spain’s opposition parties, some regional government leaders and unease within the leadership of governing coalition partner Unidas Podemos, on Monday the government lifted some restrictions imposed two weeks ago under the extension of its “state of alarm” emergency decree.
The move becomes effective Monday morning in most of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions and on Tuesday in a handful where Easter Monday bank holidays are celebrated, enabling workers at what are considered “essential industries” to return to the workplace but maintaining tight control over the movements of individuals.
Following what appeared to be a tapering off of the coronavirus infection rate across Spain at the weekend, police and government workers began distributing masks Monday morning at public transport hubs, as construction workers and others unable to perform their jobs remotely from home in a string of industries designated as “essential” for the running of Spain’s economy began returning to work.
Until further notice, all other individuals not working in essential industries will see their ability to move about still sharply curtailed at the same level as during the past two weeks, the government said.
The decision to raise restrictions caused alarm among critics of the government who fear it may lead to a rebound in the rate of coronavirus infection and the rate of mortality from the COVID-19 disease. In a video-conference call Sunday with leaders of Spain’s regional communities, Sánchez faced outright opposition to the easing of restrictions from the Madrid community President Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative opposition Partido Popular party, as well as from Catalonia regional President Quim Torra of the separatist Junts per Catalunya (JxCAT) party.
Both regional leaders voiced the opinion that strict control of movement be continued because of the medical emergency, regardless of the negative impact on Spain’s economy. Other regional leaders in areas less negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis pushed for a lifting of the restrictions to enable the economy to start a slow return to normalcy as soon as possible.
In last week’s meeting of the cabinet-level Consejo de Ministros, coalition government ministers from Unidas Podemos reportedly expressed their opposition to the the desire of some ministers from Sánchez’s own Socialist party to completely lift restrictions.
Instead, the Unidas Podemos cabinet members joined more cautious voices among their Socialist colleagues in pushing for a compromise solution that allows only essential industry workers back to work and leaves the strict lockdown restrictions in place for all others, including those working in non-essential sectors of the economy.
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