Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday, March 28, that nonessential workers are to stay home from Monday, March 30, until Thursday, April 9, to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within the country. Sanchez did not immediately define which activities would be considered "nonessential" and, therefore, subject to the restrictions.
The move comes as the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Spain rose to over 72,200 as of Saturday (the fourth-highest total in the world, following the US, Italy, and China), with over 5800 associated deaths. However, the percentage increase in new cases has reportedly slowed to around 13 percent per day, with Sanchez claiming that existing restrictions have put Spain "on the right path."
Spain's Congress approved extending a related state of emergency to Sunday, April 12, during an early morning (local time) vote on Thursday, March 26. Under the state of emergency, the government is granted exceptional powers to limit the free movement of people and vehicles, and ration goods and services, among other powers. Residents are to restrict all movement except those going to essential work, hospitals or health centers, financial institutions, and those shopping for groceries, pharmaceuticals, and basic necessities. Schools, bars, restaurants, and most shops are closed. All social gatherings are banned, and additional police officers have been deployed to enforce the orders.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.