SPAIN has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak after health authorities announced 1,063 new cases and 53 new deaths overnight, with Pedro Sanchez, the country’s Prime Minister, warning of drastic measures including mass evacuations and rationing. British holidaymakers have been warned to avoid the hardest hit areas.
The new figures show Spain now has 4,209 confirmed cases and a revised death toll of 120 – the second-highest number of cases in Europe, after Italy. A “state of alert” would be the first of three stages of the state of emergency. The new rules last for 15 days and empowers the government to take wide-ranging measures including confining people, ordering mass evacuations, and imposing rationing.
Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the country expects to exceed 10,000 coronavirus cases by the beginning of next week.
In a national address Mr Sanchez pleaded with citizens the fight against the disease “depends on each of us”.
The state of emergency, which Mr Sanchez said will formally be decided by a cabinet meeting on Saturday, will give the government power to take wide-ranging measures including temporarily occupying factories or any other premises except private homes.
Mr Sanchez said: “The government of Spain will protect all its citizens and will guarantee the right life conditions to slow the pandemic with as little inconvenience as possible.”
He did not spell out what specific measures the government will take.
Schools have already shut down across the country, with many cinemas, theatres or playgrounds also closing and trials suspended in several regions as normal life came to a halt in the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy.
The current Spanish tally stands at 4,209, up by about 1,000 cases from Thursday and seven times as much as on Sunday. About 120 people have died.
Mr Sanchez warned the number of cases in Spain could jump to over 10,000 as early as next week but added he was confident the country would defeat the virus, urging all citizens to do their part.
He added: “Heroism is also washing your hands and staying home,” referring to health advice to slow the propagation of the coronavirus.
Regional authorities could not immediately confirm the shutdown plan which would signal a drastic step-up in Spain’s response to the rapidly-spreading virus.
Spain has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world and the second most in Europe, behind Italy, in an outbreak that has centred on Madrid and the Basque country, and regional capital Bilbao
Two areas there are in lockdown and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 417 on Friday while the number of deaths rose to 14.
All schools and universities were closed today and the city’s public transport network is being disinfected every day to kill any bacteria on surfaces.
Catalonia, Spain’s second-richest region, ordered on Friday the closure of shopping centres with the exception of those selling food or essential goods, as well as gyms and nightclubs, a senior official said.
The Madrid region – Spain’s wealthiest – has also decided to close restaurants, bars and shops from Saturday, media including Efe news agency said, with only supermarkets and pharmacies allowed to remain open. Authorities could not yet confirm this.
British holiday hotspots are being placed in lockdown in a desperate bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus with nightclubs, pubs and discos in Ibiza and Majorca ordered to close, along with gyms and sports facilities and casinos.
Similar drastic measures are being taken in Barcelona and Madrid, casting doubt on Britons’ spring and summer getaways.
Spanish media has also reported all restaurants, bars and shops in Madrid will be forced to close from tomorrow with only supermarkets and pharmacies allowed to remain open.
The hardest hit regions are Madrid, the Basque Country and La Rioja.
Health authorities in the Madrid region said the number of cases rose to 2,078 today.
The Basque Country, one of Spain’s wealthiest regions, has declared a health emergency which regional president Inigo Urkullu said would allow the region to declare quarantines rapidly if needed, evacuate people and restrict access to some areas.
Catalonia’s autonomous authorities have already placed 70,000 people on a 14-day lockdown in Igualada, Vilanova del Cami, Odena and Santa Margarida de Montbui.
Police roadblocks have been set up to prevent people entering or leaving the quarantine zone around 30 miles north of Barcelona.
Britons have been warned to stay away from the most badly-effected regions.
The Foreign Office has updated its website advising against all but essential travel to Madrid, La Rioja, the municipalities of La Bastida and Vitoria in the Basque Country and Miranda de Ebro in Castilla y León.
Hundreds of thousands of Britons visit the affected areas every year.
The Foreign Office is not advising against travel to other areas of Spain or suggesting that British nationals in the country leave, as transport routes out remain open.
Several Renault-Nissan plants in Spain halted production temporarily on Friday or were planning stoppages next week due to a lack of parts amid the coronavirus epidemic, company officials said.
Speaking minutes after Mr Sanchez’s announcement, Turkey’s Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan confirmed his country was halting flights to and from Spain, as well as Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands as of Saturday morning until April 17 as part of efforts to contain coronavirus.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, speaking alongside Turhan, said Turkey had confirmed three more coronavirus cases, bringing the total confirmed cases to five.
In the UK, concerns were voice this week after more than 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans arrived in Merseyside for their team’s Champions League clash with Liverpool.
John Ashton, a Professor of Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, later told the BBC: “I’m tearing my hair out with this.
“We’ve got Madrid, where they are playing games behind closed doors, and you’ve got 3,000 supporters, in town, staying over in Liverpool and drinking in the bars.
“A proportion of those will be Coronavirus positive and we will now have people being infected in Liverpool tonight because of that.
“The government needs to get a grip and stop treating the public like children.”
All football in the UK has now been suspended until April 3, it was today confirmed.
Heroism is washing your hands and staying home