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Hard-hit Spain charts course out of Covid-19 lockdown

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on a visit to a ventilator factory in Mostoles, near Madrid, April 3, 2020.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on a visit to a ventilator factory in Mostoles, near Madrid, April 3, 2020. © Borja Puig de la Bellacasa, La Moncloa, AFP

Spain will transition out of its strict virus lockdown in four phases through the end of June, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday. 

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Since March 14, Spain has enforced one of the world's strictest lockdowns in a bid to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus epidemic that has so far claimed nearly 24,000 lives in the country. 

Experts believe the epidemic peaked on April 2 when 950 people died over 24 hours.

The Spanish cabinet met for hours on Tuesday to approve a plan for gradually reducing the restrictions. 

"In the best-case scenario, this de-escalation phase will take a minimum of six weeks and the maximum duration we want to see is eight weeks for the whole of Spain," Sanchez said.

"By the end of June, we as a country will have entered into the new normality if the epidemic remains under control," he said. 

Spain, he said, has already entered into a preparatory "phase zero", which is likely to last until May 11 when phase one would allow small shops, hotels, restaurants and places of worship to open on a limited basis with strict respect for social distancing norms. 

Each of the four phases will last no more than two weeks and will be evaluated on a weekly basis, he said, without giving fixed dates. 

Spain has ranked third in terms of COVID-19 fatalities after the United States and Italy, but the toll has been gradually dropping. 

On Tuesday, Spain said it had suffered another 301 deaths in 24 hours in what was the fifth consecutive day the figure had been below 400.

On Sunday, Spain began letting children out for the first time in six weeks, allowing them to go into the streets for one hour a day, with one parent, within a one-kilometre (half-mile) radius of their home. 

And on May 2, Sanchez has mooted another easing of the restrictions, saying the rest of the population will be allowed out for brief walks or to exercise. 

(AFP)

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