The construction sector across Spain and other industries in Catalonia and the Basque Country went back to work on Tuesday, after the government eased one of the world’s toughest coronavirus lockdowns as the pace of new infections slowed.
However, with the overnight death toll edging up further beyond 500, some frontline workers have joined the head of the Catalan regional government in questioning if the curbs were being lifted too soon.
For Roberto Aguayo, a 50-year-old Barcelona construction worker, the restart came just in time.
“We really needed it, just when we were going to run out of food we returned to work,” he told. “…People are keeping a safe distance and I think it is very good,” he added.
Spain is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, with more than 170,000 documented cases and more than 18,000 deaths.
A lockdown banning residents from leaving home for all but the most essential activities has been credited with slowing a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April, as government data showed the outbreak had cost the country around 900,000 jobs in just two weeks.
Shops, bars and public spaces will stay closed until at least April 26, and on Tuesday the health ministry reported the lowest increase in new cases – 3,045 – since March 18.
In Catalonia, Spain’s second-worst hit region after Madrid, health workers distributed masks to morning commuters as one of their colleagues wondered if the lockdown’s gains could be wiped out.
“I understand the circumstances at an economic level, but I still find it quite hasty this return (to work), I see too many people today,” said Barcelona hospital worker Monica Pinzon.
Other health care staff had previously expressed similar concerns, while Catalan leader Quim Torra on Sunday described the decision to restart these sectors as irresponsible, and called the risk of a second lockdown “enormous.”
Authorities said they had closed a makeshift morgue set up in Madrid’s Ice Palace skating rink, but the Barcelona Fair complex that hosts the world’s largest exhibition and conference for the mobile industry was converted into a temporary hospital.
A survey by pollster Ipsos published on Tuesday showed 51% of Spaniards consider Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s’ management of the coronavirus crisis has been bad or very bad.