Spain Eases COVID-19 Restrictions

On 12 April, Spain decided to ease the lockdown enforced on 27 March. As COVID-19’s spread slowed down and the number of daily deaths started to decrease, the Spanish government decided to allow construction and manufacturing businesses to reopen. The Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the continuation of the state of emergency and the lockdown for workers who are able to work from home and unauthorized businesses at a press conference. Government officials stated that they will be issuing guidelines about maintaining safe distances between coworkers and the temperature clothes should be washed at. As another safety measure, the police will be distributing face masks at train stations and on buses.

The decision to ease the lockdown and allow some businesses to reopen sparked mixed feelings in Spain. Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the Spanish Minister of the Interior, said “the health of workers must be guaranteed.” Several reopening businesses announced that they will be taking extra safety measures to prevent the transmission of the virus. Ibon Briz Iceta, the deputy CEO at Ondozabal Group, an engineering firm, said: “We are giving our workers masks and taking precautionary measures to ensure their health.” Xabier Arambarri, the owner of Delteco Group, stated that the firm will be “putting into place special measures to test all of our staff for the virus using a private clinic.” Despite the promises made by companies some workers such as Carlos Mogorron are still worried: “I would have preferred to wait 15 more days confined to home or at least one more week and then come back.” The regional President of Catalonia Quim Torra, from the autonomous community responsible for almost 20 percent of Spain’s GDP,  stated that he will not follow the Prime Minister’s decision of easing the lockdown and voiced his concerns about “the risk of a new outbreak and a second lockdown.”

We are living through unprecedented times, with the lockdown having both economic and psychological effects for millions of people. But when what’s at stake is human life, we should be prioritizing health being before the economy. The concerns of the Spanish government are understandable, but allowing some businesses to open up could lead to a second wave of the outbreak and might cause a longer lockdown later on. There is news about the possible resurgence of a new outbreak in China and Hong Kong, which shows that Spain is also vulnerable to a new wave of COVID-19. Without completely flattening the curve and diminishing the numbers of new cases, any attempt to ease lockdown can come at the cost of more lives. But the Spanish government has probably considered the possible results of their decision, and is either ready to deal with the consequences or has calculated that this is still the best option.

The first coronavirus case was diagnosed in Spain on 31 January. By 14 March, the Spanish government declared the state of emergency and later enforced a complete lockdown. A couple of days before the government announced that they will be easing the lockdown, the World Health Organization announced that there could be “deadly resurgence” if countermeasures are lifted too soon. Antoni Trilla, a professor at the University of Barcelona, suggested the government should put in place a system to detect and treat new patients in light of the risk of a new rise in cases.

Spain’s decision to ease the lockdown was closely followed by Italy. These two nations, the worst-affected by the pandemic in Europe so far, are now starting to open up their countries. While some view these decisions as essential to the revitalization of a struggling economy, some suggest they are risky and could cause a new outbreak. It is important for countries and citizens to cooperate during this pandemic, for it is a worldwide phenomenon. It is therefore vital to consider the WHO’s concerns and how the resurgence of COVID-19 could affect the citizens of neighbouring countries before easing lockdown measures. It remains to be seen whether Spain’s decision will prove a reasonable one in the long term.