Spain on Saturday imposed a nationwide 15-day state of emergency to fight the novel coronavirus and put its 47 million inhabitants under partial lockdown, AFP reported. Spain confirmed more than 1,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and is Europe’s second worst-affected country by the disease after Italy.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said people must stay home except to buy food, medicines, go to work, the hospital or for emergencies. The government also said bars, restaurants and shops selling anything but food and other staples must shut down.
“The measures which we have adopted are drastic and will unfortunately have consequences... but our hand will not shake to prevail against the virus,” Sanchez said in a nationally televised address. “We will win this battle... but it is important that the price we pay for this victory be as little as possible.”
The prime minister added that these “extraordinary decisions” needed to be taken as Spain grappled with a “health, social and economic crisis”.
Shortly after the announcement, the government said Sanchez’s wife, Begona Gomez, had tested positive for coronavirus. Two ministers of Sanchez’s Cabinet, the minister of equality and the minister of regional affairs, had already tested positive earlier this week.
The disease has so far claimed 196 lives in Spain and the number of infections climbed past 5,700.
Schools are also shut across Spain and a first package of economic steps was announced on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Italy on Saturday reported its biggest day-to-day jump in number of infected cases of COVID-19. The government had imposed an unprecedented series of controls since the virus emerged in northern Italy on February 21, banning public gatherings, forbidding all but essential travel and telling people to stay at home.
National health authorities said the country recorded 3,497 new cases in 24 hours, roughly a 20% increase from Friday. The toll rose to 1,441 with total 21,157 cases, the highest in the world outside China.