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Spain loosens coronavirus lockdown, death toll passes 17,000 but pace slows

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 Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the global coronavirus epidemic, on Monday started to ease tough lockdown restrictions that have kept people confined to their homes for more than a month and put a brake on economic activity.

 

Spain’s cumulative death toll from the coronavirus rose to 17,489 on Monday, up 517 from 16,972 on Sunday, the Health Ministry said. Confirmed cases totalled 169,496, up from 166,019 the previous day. 


However, this was the smallest proportional daily increase in the number of deaths and new infections. 


With signs indicating the situation was taking a tentative turn for the better, some businesses, including construction and manufacturing, were allowed to reopen. 


But most of the population were still confined to their homes, and shops, bars and public spaces will remain closed until at least April 26. 

People at main transport hubs were handed face masks by police as they went to work on Monday morning. 


“The health of workers must be guaranteed. If this is minimally affected, the activity cannot restart,” Interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Cadena Ser radio station. 


Lockdown restrictions have helped slow a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April, but they have tested the resolve of people cooped up inside their homes. 

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