MADRID — Thousands of construction, factory and office workers, along with others in some nonessential businesses, went back to work on a rainy Monday in Spain, ending the two-week “hibernation” that the government implemented to fight the spread of covid-19, which has claimed at least 17,489 lives in the country.
But bars, restaurants, hotels, sports centers, shops and leisure activities all remained closed, amid competing concerns over the economic toll of the virus on one side and the dangers of loosening restrictions too early on the other.
Despite Monday’s changes, Spain remains under the nationwide lockdown that started one month ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 169,496 people in the country.
“We have passed the first stage, reaching the peak,” said Health Minister Santiago Illa in a news conference Monday. “Now the second stage, flattening the curve, is this week’s objective. Today we have started economic activity in a very limited number of sectors, but we are still in confinement.”
In another indication for how far the country remains from normality, security forces distributed 10 million hygienic masks at the country’s main transportation hubs on Monday, reversing earlier guidelines that said general use of masks was unwarranted.
Authorities said citizens were largely complying with the government orders. More than 90 percent of individuals who were found outside their apartments and were checked by authorities had valid reasons for leaving their homes, Civil Guard chief José Manuel Santiago said Monday.
The number of confirmed cases rose by about 2 percent, or 3,477 infections, on Monday, marking a continuation of the country’s downward trend, even though Monday figures tend to be lower because of delayed reporting.
The Health Ministry announced a daily death toll of 517 people, a 3 percent increase.