Spain reported the smallest increase in the number of coronavirus cases in three days as the nation considers a cautious easing of restrictions on public life.
There were 3,968 new infections in the 24 hours through Tuesday, taking the total to 204,178, according to Health Ministry data. The number of fatalities rose by 430, compared to Monday’s increase of 399, to 21,282. More than 80,000 have recovered from the disease in the world’s most extensive outbreak behind the U.S.
The numbers of new cases and deaths have dropped to about half their levels at the start of April, prompting the government to shift focus to a possible easing of lockdown measures. Still, gains are fragile and ending the lockdown will be a gradual process, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the weekend.
A first step will be easing confinement rules for children, who will be let out of their homes from April 27. The cabinet, holding its weekly meeting Tuesday, and scientific advisory teams are expected to outline the new regulations this week.
While Sanchez hasn’t given details on how they will work, he signaled they will probably apply to children up to the age of 12. The government plans to extend the lockdown until May 9, but requires parliamentary backing. Sanchez has also said that the end of the confinement will likely happen in phases, with certain areas of the country exiting before others.
On Tuesday, Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero announced that she has recovered from the virus. She was one of three cabinet members to test positive, and all three have recovered.
The administration is also focusing on ways to deal with the country’s economic collapse. It’s pushing a proposal to form a European fund that would grant financial assistance to nations hit by the virus without creating more debt for individual countries. Sanchez is expected to present the plan to his European counterparts at Thursday’s virtual summit.
On Monday, the Bank of Spain said gross domestic product could shrink as much as 12.4% this year, in a worse-case scenario. Enagas SA, the country’s gas transporter, said Tuesday that industrial gas demand has dropped 2% every week since the start of a state of emergency.
(Updates with lockdown plans in fifth paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected the scope of the increase in cases and the date children will be allowed out.)
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