In Spain, Pandemic Restrictions Mean Children Aren't Allowed Outside Their Homes
It's been over a month since the coronavirus pandemic forced the Spanish government to declare a state of emergency and put the country on lockdown.
People haven't been allowed to leave their homes except to buy food and medical supplies or walk the dog. Anyone who breaks these rules faces fines of more than $1,000.
But children aren't allowed out at all, even to accompany their parents to the grocery store. Almost all other European countries allow at least some outside time for kids.
Patricia Silvio has been confined in her Barcelona apartment since March 14 with her husband and 5-year-old son Max, whose birthday party had to be canceled last month.
"The situation has been really hard," she told NPR over the phone.
Silvio is working from home for an events-coordinating company. Recently, her husband fell sick, showing symptoms of COVID-19. He wasn't able to get tested (testing is reserved for those with difficulty breathing or who have had a fever for longer than seven days), but had to isolate himself.
"It's been really, really complicated to keep the house in order, take care of the kid, take care of my husband," said Silvio. "And without the chance to go out and get my kid some exercise."
Silvio says she's lucky — the family has a small terrace where Max can play. However, millions of children in Spain live in apartments without outdoor space; others live in cramped spaces with large families. All these children haven't been outdoors since mid-March.
Various regional governments in Spain have introduced local laws that would allow children to go outside — as long as they're accompanied by an adult, wear a face mask (if they're over 3 years old) and leave their homes during permitted times. But these measures must first be approved by the central government in Madrid.
Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau said it was unfair that the strict rules are still in place for children, when other measures are being relaxed.
"If we can resume some economic activity with all the preventative measures in place, we should also be able to allow our children to leave their houses to go for a walk," she said.
Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa told a press conference on Friday that the central government was studying the regional proposals to relax the rules for children.