“This virus will not defeat us. On the contrary. It will make us stronger as a society; a society that is more committed, more caring, more united. A society that’s standing up against any adversity.” That was the message that Spain’s King Felipe VI conveyed to Spaniards last night as the coronavirus pandemic continued on Wednesday to sweep through the country, causing nearly 14,000 infections and 623 deaths. The monarch said that he had confidence that Spanish society would overcome what he described as an “unprecedented” health crisis.
King Felipe used his address to thank health professionals, whom he described as being “on the forefront in Spain of the battle against this disease.” And he called on Spaniards to “leave aside their differences,” and to unite to face the pandemic “with calm and confidence, but also with determination and energy.”
The king insisted that this was a “temporary crisis,” “a parenthesis” that would end “sooner rather than later”
Four days after the state of alarm was declared in Spain, the monarch appeared in his televised address, and stood behind a lectern with the Spanish and European flags behind him. He underlined the severity of the crisis, which, he said, would alter the wellbeing of society “in a very traumatic way.”
In the name of the royal family, he expressed his sympathy to all the families who had lost a loved one to the Covid-19 disease, and thanked the personnel and public services who are fighting against the pandemic, in particular health staff, to whom he conveyed his “total support.”
“Now we have to resist, to endure,” he said, insisting that this was a “temporary crisis,” “a parenthesis” that would end “sooner rather than later” provided citizens keep their guard up. Spain would overcome the crisis, he said, as it has others that have been “very difficult, very serious,” because Spaniards are “a great people who do not give up in the face of difficulties.”
Although King Felipe has been constantly kept informed about the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, this was the first time that he had spoken publicly about the pandemic. Last night’s address was the first of its kind, not counting the traditional Christmas speech, since he took to the airwaves on October 3, 2017 in the wake of the illegal referendum on independence held in Catalonia.
The king’s address to the public came just days after he released a statement announcing that he would be renouncing his inheritance from his father, emeritus king Juan Carlos, after allegations of financial impropriety and the existence of Swiss bank accounts connected to the former monarch emerged. The royal household also announced that Juan Carlos had been stripped of his annual stipend of €194,232. King Felipe made no mention of these matters during his speech last night.
To coincide with his speech, some Spaniards staged a noisy protest from their balconies, banging pots and pans in a bid to encourage Juan Carlos to donate the alleged €100 million he had in Swiss bank accounts to the Spanish public health system. The calls for the protest, which were spread via social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp, were particularly notable in parts of Madrid and Catalonia, where a section of society has long been calling for independence and an end to the monarchy.
English version by Simon Hunter.