Coronavirus: Spain to quarantine 47m people as entire country put into lockdown

‘We won’t hesitate in doing what we must to beat the virus’

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 14 March 2020 22:24 GMT
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Spain has announced it is placing its 47m citizens under partial lockdown for 15 days – the latest nation to turn to increasingly stringent measures to try and halt the spread of coronavirus.

As the total global number of deaths from the disease topped 5,000 and infections passed 140,000, Spain’s prime minister said people would be required to stay at home.

The only exceptions would be for people to buy food and medicine, or go to work.

“I want to tell the workers, the self-employed, and businesses that the government of Spain is going to do everything in its power to cushion the effects of this crisis,” prime minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday in a televised address.

“From now we enter into a new phase. We won’t hesitate in doing what we must to beat the virus. We are putting health first.”

The move by the authorities in Madrid were similar to those taken in Italy, after both nations failed to confine the virus to a regional outbreak.

Health authorities said on Saturday that coronavirus infections had reached 5,753 people, half of them in Madrid, since the first case was detected in Spain in late January. That represented a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours.

Mr Sanchez said all police forces, including those run by local authorities, would be put under the orders of the interior minister and that the armed forces were on stand-by.

“At any moment, when it is necessary, we can count on the deployment of the armed forces. The army is ready,” he said.

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According to the government decree, people will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to medical centres and banks, or take trips related to the care for the elderly, the young, and dependents. Those limitations were effective immediately.

It is also closing all restaurants, bars, hotels, schools and universities nationwide, and other non-essential retail outlets, a move some of its hardest-hit communities have already carried out.

The state of emergency also gives the government the power to take control of private hospitals to reinforce its large public health service that is being pushed to the brink in the capital and other areas.

Spain is the second hardest-hit country in Europe after Italy, with 193 deaths and 6,250 cases so far, public broadcaster TVE said, well up from 120 deaths reported on Friday.

Italy extended the strict restriction on movements from the north to the entire country on March 9 when it registered over 9,000 infections. It then went further on March 11 and closed all retail outlets except some supermarkets and pharmacies.

In the United States, Donald Trump encouraged citizens not to travel and said he was considering possible restrictions.

Additional reporting by agencies

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