Construction and factory workers in Spain return to work on Monday as the government lifts some of the most stringent lockdown measures, but opposition parties caution against an "imprudent" relaxation of the rules.
Spain, one of the worst-hit nations by Covid-19, has allowed some factories to reopen as well as some construction work to restart, after the sectors were ordered to stop production two weeks ago. However, the message from government officials is that the country remains in lockdown mode. Schools, bars, restaurants and other services continue to be closed to the public and Spaniards are meant to stay at home.
The decision to loosen some of Spain's lockdown restrictions has been challenged by political opponents, at a time when Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wants a "great pact" to boost the economy.
"We must start the de-escalation in political tension now and give way to unity, dialogue, consensus and agreement as soon as possible," Sanchez said Sunday.
"We need a great pact for the economic and social reconstruction of our country," the prime minister added.
The Spanish government is formed by Sanchez's Socialist party and the anti-austerity group Unidas Podemos. The coalition gained enough parliamentary support in January thanks to the abstention of smaller parties. The executive also faces some frictions with regional governments, including in Catalonia.
As of Monday, more than 166,000 people in Spain had contracted the coronavirus, with 17,209 deaths nationwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Spain has recorded the most cases of the virus in Europe and is second-only to the U.S. for the total number of infections.
Opposition parties have criticized the government's decision to reopen factories and construction businesses, saying it is an "imprudence" and "temerity" to relax some of the lockdown measures.
The pandemic is taking its toll on the Spanish economy. Jobless claims rose by 302,265 last month, according to the Spanish labour ministry. This represented a 9.31% increase from February.
In Italy, there were 19,989 deaths registered on Sunday, which represented a daily jump of 431 deaths from the previous day and the lowest daily increase since March 19.
Meanwhile, the number of infections reached 156,363 as of Sunday evening — the third highest globally.
The Italian government announced Friday that the current lockdown measures would remain in place until May 3. However, bookshops, stationers and children's clothes shops will be allowed to reopen from Tuesday.
Nonetheless, factories — which represent a key driver of the Italian economy — are not yet allowed to open their doors.