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Spain to go 15-day lockdown as PM confirms 'State of Alarm'

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-15 05:40
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MADRID - Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday confirmed the "State of Alarm" in Spain, announcing that the country will go into lockdown for 15 days from 8 am on Monday morning in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Sanchez confirmed the decision in an address at 9:00 pm local time -- seven hours later than originally announced, following an emergency cabinet meeting to agree on further measures against the virus.

He said the measures were taken to combat "a worldwide pandemic, and a social and health crisis."

The lockdown closes bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and museums all over Spain as well as all shops except pharmacies, food stores and those selling "essential" goods for at least 15 days. The government has also placed severe restrictions on citizens from making any journey, except for a small number of exceptions.

These exceptions allow journeys to buy food, pharmaceuticals and essential items, visits to healthcare centers, journeys to work and others such as walking the dog, return journeys and trips for people who have to provide care to minors, the elderly and vulnerable.

Spain's armed forces will also be mobilized in order to ensure these measures are respected and to help assure food and medical supplies, with the central government taking control of security, health and transport from the country's 17 autonomous communities and reserving the right to take control of key strategic industries.

"We are going to give a united answer with the Government of Spain leading the rest of the Administrations to give a united solution," said Sanchez.

Other measures approved by the government see the closure of schools and colleges, while obliging companies to make it possible for people to continue working from home wherever feasible.

Meanwhile public transport is to be reduced by "at least" 50 percent for intercity trains, buses and also ferry services, with transport operators obliged to clean their vehicles on a daily basis.

"The measures we are going to adopt are drastic and will have consequences," advised the prime minister, adding that they would be "added to others we will develop in the coming days and weeks and those which are already activated."

Sanchez said the "people" were at "the heart" of his government's decisions, but he insisted people had to "obey the rules" that were being established.

"Now we are facing our true enemy, which is the pandemic and the virus," commented Sanchez, who said the "first triumph will be slowing the growth curve of the virus and our second when more people are being cured than falling sick."

The Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare confirmed on Saturday that over 6,300 people in Spain have been infected by the coronavirus, an increase of around 1,500 in just 24 hours, while the death toll now stood at 191.

A State of Alarm permits wide-ranging powers, among which are those to limit the movement of people and vehicles, and also include mobilizing the army, as well as intervening in factories and workshops and taking the necessary measures in order to assure food supplies including rationing.

This is only the second time such as situation has been decreed in Spain, with the first happened during a wildcat strike by Spanish air-traffic controllers in December 2010.

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