March 18, 2020 / 9:11 AM / 23 days ago

Spanish PM sees economy contract in "war" against coronavirus

MADRID, March 18 (Reuters) - The Spanish economy will contract as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a near-empty parliament on Wednesday, urging all to rally in what he called a “war” against the virus.

To avoid any propagation of the virus in parliament, there were only 28 lawmakers and five ministers to listen to Sanchez, leaving the 350-strong assembly unusually empty.

“It is clear that annual GDP will fall, as the European Commission has already pointed out. 2020 will not have 12 months, but 10 or even 9,” Sanchez told parliament.

“If we manage to maintain employment levels and the production structure as long as the crisis lasts without major and irreparable damage, at the end of the crisis there would be a quick recovery, including a possible rebound effect that would accelerate activity.”

Sanchez said the coronavirus crisis, which had led Spain and several other European countries to shut schools and most shops, was also “cruel”, pointing to the fact that those losing loved ones to the disease could not hold normal funerals.

With nearly 500 dead as of Tuesday’s official data, Spain is the second-worst hit country in Europe after Italy.

“We have never lived through anything like this and our society, which had grown used to changes that expand our possibilities of knowledge, health and life, now finds itself in a war to defend all we have taken for granted,” Sanchez said. (Reporting by Nathan Allen, Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo Writing by Ingrid Melander Editing by Gareth Jones)

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