Much attention will be on Spain's coronavirus stats in the coming weeks because the hard-hit nation took a controversial step on Monday: It began easing its lockdown. The government is allowing people who can't work from home—such as those in manufacturing and construction—to return to their jobs for the first time since mid-March, reports the BBC. However, bars, shops, and public spaces will remain closed for the near future, and most of the nation must still remain at home, notes Reuters. Spain had recorded more than 17,400 deaths as of Monday morning, behind only the US and Italy. But the number of new infections is dropping, as is the number of deaths. For example, Spain reported another 517 deaths Monday, down from 619 on Sunday.
"We are still far from victory, from the moment when we can pick up our normal lives again, but we have made the first decisive steps in the path towards victory," said Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday. The big question: Is it too soon? The government is trying to balance the risk of loosening the lockdown—and giving a jolt to the economy—against the possibility of a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases. The regional government in Catalan called the decision "impudent" and "reckless," and the regional premier in Madrid said it would be "unforgivable" if the move backfires, per NPR. One new change greeting workers re-entering the nation's transport hubs: Police are distributing millions of face masks. (Read more Spain stories.)