MADRID - Spain will be in a state of emergency for the next 15 days to better combat the coronavirus, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday, in a dramatic increase to the policy response that will allow authorities to confine people and ration goods.
The state of emergency, which Sanchez said will formally be decided by a cabinet meeting on Saturday, will give the government power to take wide ranging measures including temporarily occupying factories or any other premises except private homes.
"The government of Spain will protect all its citizens and will guarantee the right life conditions to slow the pandemic with as little inconvenience as possible," Sanchez said. He did not spell out what specific measures the government will take.
Schools have already shut down across the country, with many cinemas, theaters or playgrounds also closing and trials suspended in several regions as normal life came to a halt in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy.
Spain has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe after Italy. The current Spanish tally stands at 4,209, up by about 1,000 cases from Thursday and seven times as much as on Sunday. About 120 people have died.
Sanchez said the number of cases in Spain could jump to over 10,000 as early as next week but added he was confident the country would defeat the virus, urging all citizens to do their part.
"Heroism is also washing your hands and staying home," he said, referring to health advice to slow the propagation of the coronavirus.
Catalonia, Spain's second-richest region, ordered on Friday the closure of shopping centers with the exception of those selling food or essential goods, as well as gyms and nightclubs, a senior official said.
The Madrid region — Spain's wealthiest — has also decided to close restaurants, bars and shops from Saturday, media including Efe news agency said, with only supermarkets and pharmacies allowed to remain open. Authorities could not yet confirm this.