efe-epaMadrid

Spain’s prime minister on Sunday confirmed he would request a sixth and final 15-day extension to the coronavirus lockdown.

Pedro Sánchez said the central government would hand control of the de-escalation process to regional authorities when they progress to the third phase of the four-stage removal of restrictions.

The extension of the state of alarm, which came into effect on 14 March, will stretch the period of nationwide restrictions in Spain to 21 June.

The government defends the measure as the only way to ensure the process of lifting the lockdown remains orderly. It is expected to be passed by lawmakers this week with the support of Basque party PNV. The left-wing Catalan party ERC has agreed to abstain.

 “We will need a final and definitive 15-day extension of the state of alarm,” the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE) said in a televised address.

“We need it in order to finish the work we have all done.”

Regional leaders will have the power to decide whether provinces under their governance make the step from phase three to phase four, completing what the central government has termed the transition to a new normality.

The decision to decentralize the process prompted a rebuke from the conservative opposition Popular Party, whose leader said: "Sánchez is breaking the equality between Spaniards by giving nationalists in the Basque Country, Navarra and Catalonia what he won't give to the rest."

The majority of Spain is currently in phase two of dismantling the lockdown, but hotspots like Madrid and Barcelona remain on phase one. A region must remain on a given phase for at least two weeks before it can request progressing to the next stage.

The government, a coalition between the PSOE and left-wing Unidas Podemos, will retain the power to limit the movement of citizens while the state of alarm is in effect.

Sánchez added: “We cannot relax, we must remain prudent and follow the rules from the health authorities.

“Individual responsibility is fundamental if we want to defend the collective.”

“We are seeing some new outbreaks as a result of the irresponsible actions of some individuals, but we are also seeing the capacity of the regional authorities to detect cases,” he said.

He said some of the new cases had been brought in by people arriving in Spain from abroad.

On Saturday, the Belgian royal household confirmed Prince Joachim, the nephew of King Philippe, had tested positive for Covid-19 after traveling to Spain and attending a party with at least 27 people. Police are investigating whether the party was in violation of the lockdown rules.

One of Europe’s worst-hit nations, over 27,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Spain, but the number of fatalities each day has slowed to under 100 in recent weeks. EFE-EPA

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