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Spain pledges more economic support as epidemic slows

By Emma Pinedo and Belén Carreño

Spain's cabinet approved measures to support workers and businesses struggling under stringent coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday as officials cheered a slowing infection rate.

The latest 24-hour tallies took fatalities to 21,282 and infections to 204,178 - but they represented just a 2% increase, fuelling optimism the crisis may be waning at last.

Monday's 399 deaths was the lowest number since March 22.

"With each passing day we are managing to slow the spread of the virus a little more," government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.

The package of measures included an extension of unemployment benefits and modifications to the tax code that should free up 1.1 billion euros in liquidity to support small businesses and the self-employed.

Despite allowing some businesses to reopen last week, Spain remains under one of Europe's strictest lockdowns with millions cooped up at home and not even allowed out for exercise.

Children under the age of 14, who were previously barred from leaving homes under any circumstance, may now accompany parents on essential trips such as to buy food or medicine.

However, they still cannot play outside or travel alone.

"We are not relaxing confinement restrictions. Adults are responsible for making sure their children stick to the rules," government spokeswoman Ms Montero said.

"Our priority is to avoid any potential setback in the fight against the virus."

There had been growing calls to let children out, including from Colombian pop singer Shakira who lives in Barcelona with footballer Gerard Pique and their two children. (Reuters)