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Spanish PM Sanchez to extend lockdown a final time to June 21

A couple wears face masks and watches people sunbathing on the Las Canteras beach as some Spanish provinces are allowed to ease lockdown restrictions during phase two, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, island of Gran Canaria, Spain. Photo by REUTERS/Borja Suarez

By Graham Keeley

Spain's prime minister said on Sunday the country needed 15 more days of lockdown until June 21 "to finish with the pandemic once and for all", and he would ask parliament to approve a final two-week extension to the stay home rule.

"We have almost achieved what we set out to do," Pedro Sanchez told a press conference, as he expressed his intense relief that the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Spain, one of the nations hardest-hit by the virus, had fallen dramatically.

From June 21 a national state of emergency will end and with it the lockdown, allowing citizens to move freely in their regions. From July 1, citizens will be able to move throughout the country.

Spain's death toll rose by two on Sunday to 27,127, the health ministry said, while the number of COVID-19 infections rose by 96 overnight to 239,429.

Spain imposed a state of emergency on 14 March which involved a strict lockdown under which people could leave their homes only to buy food, seek medical care or for jobs where they could not work from home. Children were initially confined inside all day. Restrictions are being gradually eased.

Despite opposition to the most recent lockdown extension from parties on the right and demonstrations across Spain, Mr Sanchez has struck a deal with a Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) which should guarantee his minority government secures enough support to extend the lockdown.

Mr Sanchez warned people not to drop their guard, saying there was still a risk of new outbreaks. Authorities have been trying to act quickly when cases are found.

In the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, health authorities on Sunday ordered the compulsory isolation of 121 people after 12 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in one area. 

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