Spain toughens coronavirus lockdown as all non-essential workers told to stay home

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Spain toughens coronavirus lockdown as all non-essential workers told to stay home
Photo: AFP

All non-essential workers in Spain must stay home over the next two weeks in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced in a press conference on Saturday.


Spain's government will halt all "non-essential" activities from Monday March 30 as a means of stopping as many Spaniards as possible from leaving their homes and risking infection.

Sánchez told journalists the new legislation will be passed on Sunday in an extraordinary meeting of Spain's Council of Ministers and apply to non-essential workers until Thursday April 9, the day before Good Friday.

All affected employees in Spain will receive paid leave and will be able to make up lost work hours over an extended period of time when the isolation period ends.


"All workers in non-essential economic activities must stay at home for two weeks," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised address, in a measure that follows similar moves in Italy.

"The most important thing is to slow the number of people being taken to hospital," he said. "The virus is hitting us with relentless brute force.. (and now) is the time to intensify the battle."

Up until Sánchez's announcement, whether employees should go to their workplaces or work from home was decided by companies themselves.

As a result, Spanish labour experts had to inform workers they could face absenteeism penalties if they chose to work from home due to their fears of exposure to Covid-19.

Shops and businesses with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and some hairdressers and dry cleaners' have been closed across Spain since March 15. Construction work had also been allowed to continue. 

The new legislation will mean Spanish workers in non-essential fields (which excludes healthcare workers, supermarket workers, pharmacists etc) will no longer be obliged to head to the office in the midst of Spain's worst health crisis in decades. 

The death toll in Spain surged over 5,600 on Saturday after a record 832 people died in 24 hours, and the number of infections soared over 72,000, the government said.

Spain currently has the world's second-highest coronavirus death toll after Italy with 5,690 fatalities as of Friday March 27.

Spain went into lockdown on March 14 but the numbers have continued to grow, with a worrying rise in cases among healthcare personnel.



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