Pedro Sánchez answered with an emphatic "No" to Catalan president Quim Torra’s request to extend the full lockdown of the population due to coronavirus after Easter. Following the Spanish president's meeting with the regional presidents, the health minister, Salvador Illa, expressed it bluntly: "The royal decree on obligatory paid and recoverable leave was until April 8th. It expires on April 8th". The Catalan minister stressed that the lifting will be progressive and carried out with "caution, scientific evidence, respect for rights and freedoms and maximum advance planning".
It is precisely this criterion of "maximum advance planning" that led to Sánchez's request to the presidents of the autonomous regions to provide, before Friday 10th April, a list of both public and private infrastructures that can be used to accommodate, when necessary, patients who test positive for coronavirus but are asymptomatic. For now, the socialist leader simply stated that "it is an option which is being considered", similar to what China did in the region of Wuhan, to avoid new infections. "We want to have that list so that we can have options and work in advance", he defended.
According to Salvador Illa, the measure would be aimed at people "who wish to use it". Earlier, Dr María José Cierra, of Spain's Health Alert Centre, pointed out that it is aimed at patients who are not guaranteed a good home confinement. The interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, stressed that "public health" would be the priority. Hotels and conference centres could be set up to accommodate them. This is what was done in China's Wuhan province to tackle the spread of coronavirus. Hospitals which were labelled as “Noah's Arks” housed patients with no serious symptoms but who had tested positive and could rapidly spread the pandemic.
As was announced yesterday by Pedro Sánchez, the government, with the help of experts, is preparing a plan for the "de-escalation" or "transition" in the medium term, in order to lift restrictions, even if the state of alarm remains. The implementation will probably start on April 26th, although on April 12th the initial state of alarm will be re-implemented, allowing non-essential services to remain open. The health minister clarified that any measure will be adopted with caution, "so as not to waste the enormous effort of the citizens."
This de-escalation phase, as explained by Salvador Illa, will have to be accompanied by a massification of diagnostic tests. Between today and tomorrow, one million rapid tests will be distributed among the autonomous communities, and another million are expected to arrive next week. These rapid tests will be used primarily in hospitals and residences, to quickly identify the positive cases. But the health minister has reminded that the main tests will be PCR, "more reliable", of which an average between 15,000 and 20,000 a day are already being done. They are working with Spanish companies to manufacture them and multiply diagnostics, with an increase of between 40% and 50%.
Flattening the curve
Salvador Illa highlighted the positive evolution of coronavirus in Spain, with the infection curve becoming less steep. The figures "confirm the start of the deceleration phase," said the minister. According to the latest update, Spain has now recorded 130,759 positive cases and 12,418 deaths due to the pandemic. However, at present, the downward trend continues. For the fifth day in a row, the increase in daily cases is down, with 6,023 new positive cases in the last 24 hours, a 4.8% increase in the total. Also, for the third consecutive day, the death toll in Spain dropped, with 674 in the last 24 hours. Yesterday it was 809. Today's toll is the lowest in ten days.