The extraordinary meeting of the Spanish Cabinet that was held on Saturday made the declaration of the state of alarm announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez the day before official. The plan includes a wide range of exceptional measures, which have been introduced across Spain, and are aimed at coordinating the efforts of all public administrations as well as implicating members of the public in the efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus infections.
With these drastic actions, the Spanish government has set out the essential framework of action to deal with one of the biggest public health challenges the world has seen up until now. From this moment onward, the effectiveness of this framework will depend on each and every one of Spain’s administrations, as well as all citizens, recognizing the fact that they are directly involved in the objectives set out by the government, and assume them as their own.
The hours, days and weeks that are ahead of us will not be easy, as has been seen by the spread of the Covid-19 disease in China and Italy, countries that have gone through the experience of a mass outbreak ahead of Spain, with the tragic consequences that this has involved for their at-risk populations.
The closure of commercial and leisure outlets, as well as the cancelation of public events of any kind, are essential in order to reduce the number of infections, as per the scientific evidence so far gathered.
That also goes for the restrictions on freedom of movement that went into action on Saturday night, which allow for citizens to return to their usual place of residence should they have traveled to another part of Spain.
The declaration of the state of alarm made by the government is not just a measure aimed at the protection of people’s health, but is also, and above all else, an energetic call for solidarity among Spanish citizens. The difference between the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the other threats to public health is the ease and speed of contagion, causing massive and long-term demand for medical attention, something that the health services cannot deal with.
As well as the difficulties that exist for the identification and treatment of the most vulnerable people, in the face of the exceptional numbers of people infected with the coronavirus, there is also the fact that the ordinary health needs of the country must still be attended to – both in terms of emergency services as well as ongoing treatment. Each citizen must consider the consequences of their decisions while the state of alert lasts, taking into account the citizens whose lives are in danger, as well as the situation of health professionals.
The uncertain times in which Spain finds itself should not hide the fact that the outlook ahead is one of overcoming this unprecedented health crisis. We should not fall into the trap of downplaying the threat and deciding that the central government and the other state institutions are simply trying to prohibit certain individual actions among citizens. The reality is that by declaring a state of alarm, we are being invited to take part in a collective task: reducing the risk for the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.
English version by Simon Hunter.