MADRID, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Thursday announced a series of measures to help both the country's public health service and its economy combat the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
On Thursday, the number of coronavirus cases in Spain climbed above 3,000 and the number of deaths approached 90. Meanwhile, the IBEX-35 stock market index lost 14.06 percent of its value.
The prime minister said that the efforts of the Spanish government had a dual focus: "the first of which is health and the second is the economy."
"We are in a situation that is changing rapidly, and we will take the decisions that need to be taken," Sanchez said.
He explained that Spain was "in a health emergency where discipline is vital" and that, consequently, "every citizen should look after themselves so they can look after others."
"You have to protect yourself, so you can protect others," he insisted.
The first measures Sanchez confirmed are related to the Spanish public health service: 2.8 billion euros (3.1 billion U.S. dollars) are to be transferred to the country's 17 autonomous regions, which manage their regional health services, whose staff Sanchez praised as "robust, strong and magnificent health professionals."
"We are going to guarantee the supply of medicine and necessary materials," he assured, adding that if needed his government would also fix the maximum price of medicines and materials.
The measures also aim to deal with the effects of the virus on the Spanish economy, with 400 million euros set aside to help mitigate the losses in the tourist and restaurant sectors.
Sanchez explained that small and medium-sized companies would also be able to postpone payments to the Spanish Treasury for six months without interest.
He also assured that public sector workers who had to be quarantined would "be paid 100 percent of their salary."
The Spanish government "will not stop: we will continue working," he said, insisting that his cabinet was "following the recommendations of the experts" at all times.
Earlier on Thursday, the Spanish parliament suspended all activities for the next 15 days after it was confirmed that Minister of Equality Irene Montero had tested positive for COVID-19 and her partner, Second Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, was quarantined.
Montero's positive test was revealed a day after Deputy Speaker of Congress and lawmaker of the extreme right-wing Vox party Ana Pastor also tested positive for the virus.
Schools and colleges in the Basque Region in the north of Spain, as well as in Catalonia (northeast), Galicia (north), Murcia (southeast) and the Balearic Islands will remain closed until March 26. Schools in Madrid and La Rioja were closed earlier in the week.
The Spanish Football League (LaLiga) announced on Thursday that it was suspending matches in the Liga Santander and Liga SmartBank for the next two weeks, while Real Madrid said that the club was putting all of its basketball and football first team players into quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for the coronavirus.