efe-epaMadrid

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a decree to protect fruit and vegetable harvesting during the coronavirus crisis to avoid economic losses and disruption to the supply chain as food consumption jumped by over 17 percent under lockdown.

Luis Planas, the agriculture minister said the unemployed, people in receipt of farming subsidies, immigrants with permission to work and young immigrants between 18-21 without paperwork would be able to take up jobs in the countryside from the second half of March until the end of September.

He said there was a need for between 75,000 to 80,000 workers to carry out tasks such as fruit and vegetable picking and processing.

The workers would still be subject to the restrictions of movement currently in place in Spain, he said, and would have to take up work in their province or the adjoining on.

Planas told the press conference the population had boosted its consumption of food by 17.6 percent under lockdown compared to the same week last year, especially in meat and fresh vegetables.

María Jesús Montero, the spokesperson for the Socialist Party-led coalition, doubled down on calls for a national pact to rebuild the country once the Covid-19 health crisis has passed.

She said that although the pact would first deal with the economic damage dealt by the health crisis, the government hoped the new pact would expand to a variety of societal sectors.

“We have a need for talent and competition from all political, economic and social sectors to decide how we will continue to build the country we love,” she said.

An accumulation of data over the weekend saw Spain’s daily coronavirus fatalities jump on Tuesday after four days of decline although health authorities said there was an overall downward trend in figures.

The Spanish health ministry registered 743 deaths in the last 24 hours, more than the 637 reported between Sunday and Monday, which brings the total number of fatalities to 13,798 since the outbreak began.

There were a further 5,478 new Covid-19 infections detected in the same period, bringing the running total to 140,510, the second-highest number in the world behind the United States.

Although around 83,000 infected people remain active, more than 40,000 — a third of all confirmed cases — have recovered.

“It’s normal for this to happen, for there to be oscillations after the weekend,” Doctor María José Sierra, from Spain’s public health emergency department, said.

“What is important is to see the trend and the accumulation over several days. The small uptick we normally see on Tuesdays doesn’t have a huge deal of importance. We need to keep monitoring it and see what happens this week.”

“We continue to see a downward trend,” she said.

Around 7,069 people were in ICU across Spain, a jump of 138 overnight, which reflects a doubling of the previous day’s number.

Normally at this time of year Spaniards would be gearing up to travel across the country to meet friends, head to the beach or to the mountains.

Traditional Semana Santa processions across the country, but most spectacularly in Andalusia, have been put on hold.

This year, Spanish police are boosting their presence to ensure people don’t flout the rules.

At a daily briefing, José García Molina, the sub-director of logistics at the National Police, urged the population not to come up with excuses for “unjustified” breaches of the lockdown and said people had been caught smuggling friends in car trunks or claiming to buy bread several kilometres from their homes.

Spaniards are currently only allowed to leave their house for essentials, such as medicine and food.

“Misleading the police is like misleading the entire country,” he said.

At least 100 people had been arrested for breaching the lockdown rules in the last 24 hours, he said.

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez extended the national lockdown until at least 26 April.EFE

jt/ch