By Nathan Allen and Guillermo Martinez
MADRID (Reuters) – Grieving Spaniards wore black and fell silent across the nation at midday on Wednesday at the start of 10 days of mourning for more than 27,000 dead from the coronavirus crisis.
Some people donned black face masks as parliament stopped for a minute, the royal family stood outside the Zarzuela Palace and flags flew at half-mast to honour those lost during one of Spain’s most traumatic episodes in its modern history.
“We all feel orphans today of so many of our elders, wishing we had been able to thank them for all they did for us,” said parliament speaker Meritxell Batet.
The official mourning until June 5 is the longest in Spain’s democratic history since the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco that followed the 1936-1939 civil war.
One of the worst-hit nations from the global COVID-19 pandemic, Spain has recorded 27,117 deaths and 236,259 cases and endured a strict lockdown that even saw children unable for weeks to leave their homes for fresh air. The healthcare system is reeling and the economy is spinning into recession.
‘DON’T REPEAT MISTAKES’
At its early-April peak, the virus claimed 950 lives in a day. Now, with only 35 deaths reported in the last seven days, Spain is slowly returning to a new normality as outlets reopen albeit with social distancing.
“Strength and tenderness to all those loved ones who have left us,” Catalan chef Ferran Adria said during an online roundtable for the hospitality sector.
Anger at the government’s handling of the crisis has intensified in past weeks, with street protests breaking out in some parts.
Even though it has said no-one will be left behind and set aside billions of euros for aid, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left-wing coalition has faced criticism for mixed messaging and inadequate support for some sectors.
“A tribute to the dead is necessary, not just for them but so society takes on board everything that’s happened and we don’t repeat the same mistakes,” said Ramon, a retiree in Madrid, wearing a black mask for the day.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen, Belen Carreno, Clara-Leila Laudette, Joan Faus; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)