MADRID (AP) – Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday appealed to the Spaniards to pull together and defeat the new Coronovirus, warning: “The situation is grave.”
Sánchez, in an addressed address to the nation, acknowledged public fatigue with restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But he added: “We have to carry on the fight,” with greater limits on people’s movement that will demand more sacrifices.
Spain became the first European country to surpass more than 1 million officially recorded COVID-19 cases this week. Sanchez acknowledged, however, that the true figure could exceed 3 million, due to lag due to testing and other reasons.
He said that the current pressure on the health system during hospitalization is not as intense as it was in the spring. Nevertheless, he called for the cooperation, discipline and unity of the public during the winter months, which he said would be “very difficult.”
“We have a long road to travel,” he said, to bring the epidemic under control.
Spain reported around 20,000 new cases and 231 more deaths on Friday, bringing the country’s death toll to 34,752 in the epidemic.
However, political juggling over pandemic measures has thwarted Spain’s strategy and has at times made it difficult for the national government and the country’s 19 regional governments to coordinate the measures.
The latest spat is over whether to enforce curfew, as other European countries have done.
The Spanish government is seeking a cross-party agreement before declaring a state of emergency, possibly amid the resurgence of the new coronovirus.
A state of emergency can only be declared by the national government and is a necessary first legal step for authorities to impose curfew on COVID-19 hot spots. But it is also a politically sensitive move that took criticism of the government into heavy hands when it was previously used to help fight the epidemic.
The four Spanish regions formally asked the government to declare a state of emergency on Friday.
Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government was still assessing the need for a night-time curfew. After dark the street parties of young people are blamed as the major source of new infections.
Ila said the nighttime curfew is a “very important” step, but the government wants “very clear” political support for the measure.
Meanwhile, regional governments are imposing their own piecemeal restrictions.
The Madrid region banned social ceremonies, in addition to a house, between midnight and 6 am on Friday. Restaurants, cinemas, parks and student residences should also be closed at midnight.