Lockdown enhanced in Spain: workers of non-essential jobs obliged to stay home until April 9
Employees will have a paid allowance and will have to make up for time, as Catalan government welcomes decision
The lockdown in Spain has been enhanced and will now affect most workers, who will be obliged to stay home between March 30 and April 9.
Spain's president, Pedro Sánchez, announced it on Saturday afternoon in a press conference, just few hours after the country declared the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day: 832, bringing the total death toll in the whole of Spain to 5,690. The total number of cases declared until Saturday morning surged to 72,248, with 8,189 more people infected compared to 24 hours before.
In his statement, Sánchez explained that "all workers of non-essential activities will have to stay home."
He added that workers of non-essential jobs will have a paid allowance and will have to make up for the time after confinement "progressively." Indeed the Socialist leader said that agreements between workers and employers would ideally include "making up for half an hour or an hour a day by December 31"
Sánchez pointed out that the fact that some days are bank holiday due to Easter makes that in practice, the working days affected by the measure are only eight. This will contribute to "reduce the mobility," he expressed.
"The measures that the government is taking are extremely severe," said Sánchez.
Catalonia welcomes decision
Meanwhile the Catalan government, which has urged for an enhancement of lockdown measures since March 13, welcomed the announcement.
"We are satisfied because finally, Pedro Sánchez enforces the measures urged by the Catalan cabinet based on the recommendations of experts."
In his press conference, Sánchez implicitly referred to Catalonia by saying the new measures are not a total lockdown – as the cabinet in Barcelona demands – because this would have meant "closing the economy."
According to him, the new measure, which will be passed in an extraordinary Spanish cabinet meeting on Sunday, is not going to freeze the economy, but "open new spaces that will enable not entirely halting it, but reducing the necessary levels of it in order to beat [the disease.]
Centralizing healthcare material purchases
During his speech, Sánchez also implicitly referred to the row with Catalonia and other administrations over Madrid's intentions to centralize healthcare material purchases.
"We are stronger as one than as 17. If the Spanish government leads the purchases, this will give us more flexibility," said the head of government.
The Catalan executive has been advocating for a decentralized purchase, so that regions have room to make their orders to suppliers, as Catalonia is now doing.
Criticism to the EU
In his statement, Sánchez also called on the EU for help.
"Spaniards have always protected Europe every time we have voted. Now it is time for Europe to protect the weak ones," he said. "Europe cannot fail this time."
This follows disagreements especially between member states like Germany and the Netherlands, and those suffering most the consequences of the epidemics in Europe, Spain and Italy. So far they have been unable to find a common response to the crisis and especially to an EU bailout for member states.