International

Spain bans lay-offs amid COVID-19 crisis

Madrid, Mar 28 (IANS) | Publish Date: 3/28/2020 9:34:36 AM IST

The Spanish government has banned layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic in the country, saying it had put enough measures in place for temporary leaves to be granted to employees instead.

Employment Minister Yolanda Diaz told a press conference on Friday that nobody was “allowed to use COVID-19 as an excuse to fire people”, reports Efe news. “It is not necessary to fire anyone in this country, this crisis is a parenthesis, we believe there are sufficient mechanisms in this country for people to use public resources responsibly,” she added.

Diaz said the government had simplified the process of placing employees on temporary leave, which now required simply filling out a basic form.

The Minister said temporary contracts due to expire in the near future would be frozen and resumed after the crisis. Diaz’s announcement came 10 days after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez unveiled an unprecedented 200 billion euro aid package designed to help businesses by offering credit lines.

The government also said it would pay benefits to workers put on temporary leave, whether or not they would have qualified in regular circumstances.

Meanwhile, Maria Jesus Montero, the government’s spokeswoman, urged the European Union (EU) to offer a clear response to the health crisis after the bloc failed to land consensus on a financial package following six hours of debate on Thursday. “The EU is synonymous with solidarity and welfare. It cannot turn its back on the population during a crisis like this. We would never forgive that.”

EU leaders said they would meet again to discuss its response within two weeks.

Spanish health authorities on Friday said 769 coronavirus patients had died in the last 24 hours, the highest daily toll in the country since the outbreak began.

The new peak brings the total number of deaths in Spain to 4,858, while the number of new infections rose 14 per cent in a day, the lowest increase in the last 15 days. Spain has recorded a total of 64,059 confirmed cases, almost 50,000 of which are still active.

Fernando Simon, the head of Spain’s public health emergency department, said the new figures provided a “certain hope” that the country was experiencing a flattening of the curve in terms of new cases, adding that such analysis must be treated with caution at this time.

The number of deaths in one day jumped 18.8 per cent compared to the 655 deaths recorded Thursday but Simon highlighted that the figure, as a percentage of total cases, appeared to have stabilized.

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