International

Spain to allow children outside after six weeks

The details still have to be worked out but the prime minister agrees children need to have fresh air

Spanish children have been kept indoors since 14 March, under strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Now Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez aims to relax the rule on 27 April so they can “get some fresh air”.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has young children herself, this week pleaded with the government to allow children outside.

Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases.

In a televised briefing on Saturday evening, Mr Sánchez said Spain had left behind “the most extreme moments and contained the brutal onslaught of the pandemic”.

But he said he would ask parliament to extend Spain’s state of alarm to 9 May as the achievements made were “still insufficient and above all fragile” and could not be jeopardised by “hasty decisions”.

Pedro Sánchez gives a briefing on 18 April
Pedro Sánchez reacted to growing criticism of the decision to keep children indoors since 14 March

Another 565 deaths were reported on Saturday, well down from the peak of the pandemic, and the government allowed some non-essential workers to resume construction and manufacturing last Monday.

However, the main lockdown measures remain in place, with adults only allowed out to visit food shops and pharmacies or work considered essential. Children have been barred from leaving their homes completely.

‘These children need to get out’

Spain’s eight million children have already spent five weeks confined to their homes and there has been growing unease at the risk to their health.

The Spanish Children’s Rights Coalition has warned of mental and physical health problems for children as a result of confinement measures and called for boys and girls to be allowed outside to play and do some physical activity.

“These children need to get out,” the Barcelona mayor demanded. “Wait no more: Free our children!”

Other countries such as Denmark have begun opening up schools for under-11s while Norway is set to reopen kindergartens on Monday. Germany will reopen some schools on 4 May although the most populous state will begin opening up from Monday.

Sweden has kept its schools open throughout the crisis. However, none of these countries has been as badly hit by the virus as Spain.

Ada Colau photographed in a face mask
The mayor of Barcelona said that like other parents she worried about the “psychological and emotional health” of her children

From a week on Monday, the prime minister said, children will be allowed out but he added that he had not yet decided how it would be organised and it would have to be “limited and subject to conditions to avoid contagion”.

“The proposal is that starting from 27 April they have the opportunity to leave their homes and for a while in the day they get to enjoy fresh air,” he said, without specifying for how long that would be.

Mr Sánchez said he would discuss the details of easing the restrictions with regional leaders on Sunday and following the advice of paediatricians. Reports said the relaxation would only apply to under-12s but that has not been confirmed.

He accepted that many children were living in homes of 40-50 sq m (430-540 sq ft) in size and that the youngest would be allowed out in the street.