Spain Allowing Some Workers to Return to Jobs


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Governments around the world are weighing when and how quickly to allow people back to work without endangering their populations to the coronavirus.

Spain loosened some of its restrictions Monday, while South Korean officials say they were discussing potential new guidelines to relax stay-at-home measures.

Spain allowed workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors to go back to work on Monday. With the threat of spreading the virus still present, companies are required to provide employees with protective equipment and make sure they maintain the recommended two meters of spacing from other workers.

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries with more than 165,000 confirmed cases and 17,000 deaths. Much of the country has been on lockdown for about a month.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday the government will move cautiously on allowing other people to end their self-isolation. He said officials would proceed with "prudence" and "always based on scientific evidence."

On Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the pandemic is a threat not only in terms of its impacts on health, but also economically and socially.

"Therefore, the response requires combining measures that prevent contagion, that allow the recovery of our health system and that at the same time prevent paralysis and the collapse of our economy with the harmful effects it may have on employment in our country," Sanchez said.

In South Korea, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Monday officials were discussing potential new guidelines that would keep in place social distancing rules while allowing some "economic and social activity."

South Korea has seen its number of daily new cases steadily fall, with the government reporting 25 new cases on Monday.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that "control measures must be lifted slowly and with control" to eradicate COVID-19.

"It cannot happen all at once. Control measures can only be lifted if the right public health measures are in place," he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday on Twitter that he has the ultimate power in the United States to decide when to relax the nation's social distancing guidelines, and not state and local officials. Trump has signaled his desire for economic activity to return to normal as soon as possible.

Trump tweeted that some are "saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons."

However, Trump said he is working closely with the governors and that a decision will soon be made on when to relax social distancing measures.

Trump's administration has advised people to stay home if they can through the end of the month, while the governors of most of the country's 50 states have gone further and ordered lockdowns, with exceptions for activities such as exercise and grocery shopping.

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a CNN interview Sunday that he thinks some of those measures could be lifted as early as next month.

"We are hoping that at the end of the month, we could look around and say, 'OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?' If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down," Fauci said.

He added that a key piece will be the ability to quickly identify anyone who becomes infected, isolate them, and track down who they have been in contact with, and that any reopening efforts would depend on the specific situation in different parts of the country.

In the northern Italian region of Veneto, one of the hardest-hit areas in Italy, officials are planning to allow people to leave their homes beginning Tuesday and allow open-air markets to reopen. However, the new rules also require everyone to wear face masks or other coverings whenever they leave their homes.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 1.87 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 116,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

The United States had the highest number of recorded cases, accounting for nearly 560,000.