Spain sees virus torment easing

Spanish Civil Guard officers near Madrid have stopped cars at checkpoints as the lockdown continues.
Spanish Civil Guard officers near Madrid have stopped cars at checkpoints as the lockdown continues.

Spain is close to the beginning of a decline in the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says, urging all political parties to join a pact for national economic revival after the health crisis.

"The fire starts to come under control ... This war against the virus will be a total victory," he told a near-empty parliament as more than 300 lawmakers participated remotely due to lockdown regulations.

They were to vote on a two-week extension of Spain's state of emergency, which would keep people at home until April 26.

The government's proposed new economic deal is inspired by the "Pacts of Moncloa", signed in 1977 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco to transform the state-run economy into a market economy for newly-democratic Spain.

It seeks to unite the splintered political landscape, and also encompass unions, companies and regions, behind a common economic reconstruction policy.

"I propose a great pact for the economic and social reconstruction of Spain, for all the political forces who want to lend their shoulder to take part," said Sanchez, a Socialist who leads a leftist coalition government after a series of inconclusive elections.

Spain's measures to curb the COVID-19 disease - some of the toughest in Europe - have helped save many lives and slashed the proportional daily increase in new infections to 4 per cent from 22 per cent, Sanchez also told parliament .

Latest health ministry data showed on Wednesday total deaths from the epidemic rising by 757 to 14,555 - the world's third-highest after Italy and the United States. Overall, Spain's cases rose to 146,690 from 140,510 on Tuesday.

Despite the extension of the lockdown, the government plans to ease restrictions for companies after shutting down all non-essential businesses nearly two weeks ago.

Australian Associated Press