Coronavirus: Spain close to the beginning of a decline in epidemic – PM

Spain is close to the beginning of a decline in the coronavirus epidemic, the country’s prime minister has said.

Health officials reported 5,756 new cases and 683 new deaths over the latest 24-hour period. That is compared with 6,180 new cases and 757 deaths on Wednesday.

It comes as Germany, Italy and Denmark indicated that improving figures on coronavirus could mean restrictions being lifted, or partially lifted, within weeks.

Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez urged all political parties to join a pact for national economic revival once the COVID-19 crisis is over.

He said: “The fire starts to come under control… This war against the virus will be a total victory.”

The Spanish parliament was expected to vote for a two-week extension of Spain’s state of emergency which would keep people at home until 26 April.

The government’s proposed new economic deal is inspired by the “Pacts of Moncloa”, signed in 1977 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco to transform the state-run economy into a market economy for newly-democratic Spain.

It seeks to unite the splintered political landscape to include unions, companies and regions to get behind a common economic reconstruction plan.

“I propose a great pact for the economic and social reconstruction of Spain, for all the political forces who want to lend their shoulder to take part,” said Mr Sanchez, a Socialist who leads a left-wing coalition government after a series of inconclusive elections.

Spain has put in place some of the toughest measures in Europe to combat the COVID-19 outbreak which have seen a reduction in the proportional daily increase in new infections to 4% from 22%.

Overall, Spain has recorded more than 152,000 infections and 15,283 deaths since the start of the COVID-19.

Despite the extension of the lockdown, the government plans to ease restrictions for companies after shutting down all non-essential businesses almost two weeks ago.

German health minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday that the coronavirus infection numbers in Germany were showing a “positive trend” and if that continued, it would be possible to talk about a gradual return to normality after the Easter break.

He said people continuing to adhere to the restrictions over the festival holiday was a precondition for a possible easing of the lockdown.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany, which has seen 2,349 people die after contracting COVID-19, will re-evaluate the situation after Easter.

Meanwhile, Italy may start gradually lifting some restrictions by the end of April, provided the spread of the disease continues to slow.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte said: “We need to pick sectors that can restart their activity. If scientists confirm it, we might begin to relax some measures already by the end of this month.”

However, Mr Conte warned that Italy could not lower its guard and restrictions would only be eased gradually.

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