Madrid: On foot, on skateboards and on scooters, Spanish children emerged from their homes on Sunday for the first time after six long weeks of living under one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns.
The relaxation came as Spain, one of the worst-hit by the global COVID-19 epidemic, registered its lowest daily increase in the coronavirus death toll in more than a month.
Children wearing protective masks were out in Madrid, with under 14s allowed outside for the first time since the government declared a state of emergency on March 14 and shut down most activity.
Lucia Ibanez, 9, out for a walk with her mother, said she had missed the streets and the park and "feeling the air on your face" during lockdown. "I never thought I would miss school but I really miss it," she said.
Children will be allowed one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., staying within one kilometre of their home. Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playparks and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, remaining at least two metres (6.5 feet) from other people. Schools remain closed.
"To tell you the truth, for me the time flew, it didn't feel long at all. We played a lot, we aren't missing anything thank God so we can't complain," said Tamara Romero, who took her two sons out on their scooters on Sunday morning.
Spain's Health Ministry said on Sunday that 288 more people had died after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, the lowest daily rise in the past month and down on Saturday's 378 and Friday's 367. The total number of deaths rose to 23,190 while the overall number of cases rose to 207,634 from 205,905 the day before.
Spain has registered the third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths, after the United States and Italy.
The Health Ministry changed the methodology on Friday for logging cases of the virus. It will no longer count antibody tests and will only include positive results from PCR tests.
In a televised address on Saturday night, Prime Minister Sanchez said lockdown restrictions would be further eased, allowing people out to exercise alone from May 2 - if the coronavirus toll continues to fall.
People living together will be permitted to take short walks together. He also laid out a wider government plan to loosen the lockdown at different speeds across different regions, depending on whether they meet with criteria established by the World Health Organization.
"We will not suddenly recover activity across all sectors," he said. "The deescalation has to be gradual and asymmetric... We won't all advance at the same pace but we will follow the same rules."