Spain allows 'non-essential' workers to resume their jobs

Europe goes back to work: Millions of Spaniards are allowed to resume their jobs after industrial lockdown is lifted despite weekend surge in death toll as police hand out masks on the metro – while Italy prepares to open some shops tomorrow

  • Spain is allowing some factory and construction work to resume after two weeks 
  • Shops selling books, stationery and children’s clothes will re-open in Italy 
  • Schools and daycare centres in Denmark are set to re-open on Wednesday 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Europe is beginning its return to work today as factories and construction sites re-open in Spain while Italy takes its first steps towards easing the lockdown. 

Police were handing out masks on Spanish metro trains today as some ‘non-essential’ workers were allowed to resume their activities after a two-week ban.

Italy will allow bookshops, stationery shops and stores selling children’s clothes to re-open tomorrow in the first loosening of Europe’s longest lockdown, although most restrictions have been extended until May. 

Meanwhile in Denmark, schools and daycare centres will re-open on Wednesday, allowing some parents to return to work. 

Passengers keep their distance riding the metro in Madrid as non-essential workers are allowed back to work today

Spain is lifting its ban on non-essential business despite concerns from some regional leaders and trade unions.  

The ban was stricter than in Britain, where people can still go to work if they cannot work from home during the lockdown.  

The people returning today include sanitary, security and telecommunications workers, customs officials and those involved in gas and electricity supplies.  

They and their companies will have to adhere to strict regulations to make sure they don’t get infected by the virus. 

Non-essential workers had been sent home on March 30 but the Spanish government has not extended the measure despite a surge in new deaths yesterday. 

Another 619 deaths were announced on Sunday, 109 more than on Saturday, putting an end to three days of declining deaths. 

It brought the country’s coronavirus death toll to 16,972, the third-highest in the world after the United States and Italy.    

Police officers at a metro station in Madrid give out free protective face masks as lockdown restrictions are eased

Spanish health authorities confirmed a further 4,167 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 166,019, second only to the US

The government has developed a ‘guide of good practices in the workplace’ in which it recommends avoiding, for example, crowding in public transport, disinfecting your mobile phone and glasses when you return home and leaving your shoes at the front door.

The non essential workers are also being advised not to share equipment, wear gloves and masks, keep two metres apart, practice social distancing on public transport, equipment to be regularly disinfected and to follow other extensive sanitary recommendations.

The Spanish Government is stressing that all other businesses, including bars, nightclubs, pubs and restaurants shut under the March 14 State of Emergency, will NOT be allowed to reopen and may have to wait many more weeks to open their doors again.

A plane carrying medical equipment to cope with the coronavirus outbreak in the Valencian region, is unloaded at the Manrises airport in Valencia

Spain ‘s death toll from coronavirus rose to 16,972 overnight, an increase of 619 on the previous day (pictured: medical staff disinfect an ambulance in Madrid)

Health workers carry on a stretcher two elderly residents of a nursing home who tested positive for the new coronavirus in Barcelona

Bars and restaurants – which can only provide home delivery – discotheques, cultural and leisure facilities, sports venues, amusement parks and auditoriums must remain closed and the ban on festivals, parades, popular festivals and folkloric demonstrations in open spaces and public roads continues.

The State of Emergency runs until April 26 but Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez has already indicated that this will be extended.

Under the State of Emergency, food stores, pharmacies, medical centres, opticians, orthopedics, press and stationery, tobacconists, gas stations, pet food and technology shops, internet commerce and laundries have always remained open.

On Monday, an army of 35,000 police and Civil Protection workers will start to distribute ten million masks for travellers to use on public transport. 

They will be provided at train, metro and bus stations. Their use is strongly advised but not compulsory.

‘The distribution of masks is only a support for health protection measures,’ according to Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who has warned that ‘there will be no relaxation of measures after the return to work of the non-essentials, we are still in the confinement phase, and we all have to be clear, we have not started de-escalation.’

He insisted that the return to work of non-essential industries on Monday does not imply a relaxation of the movement limitation measures established in Article 7 of the Royal Decree of the State of Alarm.

Health Minister Salvador Illa has stressed that those who present symptoms, no matter how slight, should not go to work and called for ‘three priorities’ to be followed: keeping a minimum distance of one metre, hand washing and ‘maximum’ hygiene in public and private spaces. 

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