The state of alarm that has confined Spaniards in their homes for the past three weeks must be extended if Spain is to slow the coronavirus pandemic. That was the message from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during a national address on Saturday to discuss the extension of the coronavirus lockdown.
On Saturday, the government announced that it intends to extend the state of alarm for another 15 days until April 26. The extraordinary measure was first approved by the Spanish Cabinet on March 14 and came into effect the following day. It was set to last until March 29 but was extended by Congress for another 15 days until April 11.
“We believe it is the time that our health system needs to recover. We have taken very strict but indispensable measures. We need to maintain them,” said Sánchez, who warned that lifting the restrictions could “lead to a second wave [of infections] when our resistance is at its lowest.”
The proposed extension of the state of alarm does not apply to the emergency decree announced by Sánchez last Saturday that suspended all non-essential activity until Thursday April 9. That means that these sectors should be able to resume activity after Easter.
Sánchez warned, however, that more confinement orders may be applied after the April 26 deadline. “Logically the measures will last longer than 15 days,” he said. “I am announcing that more days under the state of alarm will come, but they will not be the same.”
Despite the high number of coronavirus deaths still being registered in Spain, Sánchez said he was confident that the latest figures showed the outbreak was slowing. “In the next few days, the curve will flatten and the peak will be left behind,” he said. “We are very close to achieving it. But now it is again time to implore for sacrifice, resistance, to keep our spirits high.”
“When we have the curve under control, we will transition toward a new normality and to our economic recovery. For weeks, a specific team of epidemiologists has been putting together a plan on how to resume economic and social activity,” said Sánchez.
Sánchez cannot extend the state of alarm without the approval of Congress
The prime minister also used the national address to call for political unity and a cross-party agreement styled after the Moncloa Pacts of 1977, which produced a national socioeconomic recovery program and shored up Spain’s transition to democracy after the Franco dictatorship. “There will be time for political debate, for now the enemy is Covid-19,” said Sánchez.
The prime minister cannot extend the state of alarm without the approval of Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies. The coalition government led by his Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos does not count on a working majority in Congress, meaning he needs votes from other groups to pass legislation. The conservative Popular Party (PP) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) both indicated on Saturday that they would support an extension of the extraordinary measure, while the leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, refused to take a call from the prime minister. Vox is the third-largest party in Congress after the PSOE and the PP.
During the national address, Sánchez called once again on European Union to deliver a coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. “If the EU exists it is to face challenges like this one. We did it after the Second World War and we have to do it now. This is the biggest crisis of our lives,” said Sánchez.
The prime minister also had a message for the country’s senior population, which has been hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. “We are going to fight for you. All lives are worth the same. We are going to take care of you as you have taken care of us,” said Sánchez.
English version by Melissa Kitson.