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Spain toughens lockdown restrictions and bans activity in all non-essential sectors

Prime minister Pedro Sánchez during Sunday's cabinet meeting.
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez during Sunday's cabinet meeting. / EFE
  • The new measure will affect construction workers, among others

The Spanish government has toughened its restrictions brought in to fight the spread of coronavirus.

On Saturday prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced that as from Monday 30 March, all activity in non-essential sectors of the economy would be suspended.

It later allowed a 24-hour grace period, however, giving businesses until Tuesday to prepare for the shutdown, where necessary.

The new measure, approved at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, states that all workers affected must stay at home at least for the next two weeks.

This is a move that several regional presidents had called for in recent days.

The new regulation will apply to construction workers, for example, and factory workers in non-essential industries.

Their absence will be a form of paid leave, receiving salaries as usual from their employers, although the hours missed will have to be made up gradually when activity resumes up to the end of the year.

How these hours are distributed will depend on the needs of the employers and agreements with unions, however, assuming the measure is in force for just two weeks and based on a five-day, 40-hour week, a worker would have to pay back an average of 20 minutes a day.

The period, however, could well be extended as necessary, along with the state of alarm.

Workers who can continue their normal activity from home will not be affected by the measure.

Hundreds of thousands of ERTEs

The announcement comes after hundreds of thousands of companies in Spain, from small firms to giant corporations such as El Corte Inglés, applied for an ERTE as their business ceased or fell dramatically with the coronavirus lockdown.

The ERTE allows a firm to lay off workers temporarily until the end of the state of alarm. The government decreed this week that an ERTE triggered by the Covid-19 crisis must only last as long as the state of alarm is in place.

Workers affected are entitled to benefits of 70% of their basic wage.

The government has also banned companies from making workers permanently redundant due to the coronavirus crisis during the state of alarm period.