MADRID: Spain awoke to its third week under near-total lockdown on Sunday (Mar 29), as the government met to approve a strengthening of measures and the coronavirus death toll rose by a record 838 cases overnight to 6,528.
Second only to Italy in fatalities, Spain also saw infections rise to 78,797 from 72,248 the day before.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in a televised address to the nation on Saturday night, announced that all non-essential workers must stay at home for two weeks, the latest government measure in the fight against coronavirus.
He said workers would receive their usual salaries but would have to make up lost hours at a later date. The measure would last from Mar 30 to Apr 9.
Unions welcomed the measures and business groups CEOE and CEPYME said that while they would comply with the new rule, “it will generate an unprecedented huge impact on the Spanish economy, especially in sectors such as industry”.
The slowdown “may lead to a deeper crisis in the economy that could become social”, they warned in a statement.
In Madrid, birdsong drowned out traffic on deserted streets on Sunday morning as police reinforced patrols, stopping buses and cars to check passengers had reason to be out of their homes.
Schools, bars, restaurants and shops selling non-essential items have been shut since March 14 and most of the population is house-bound as Spain tries to curb the virus.