Spanish health minister on pandemic: ‘The situation is worrying, unstable and fragile’

During another tense session in Congress, the conservative Popular Party and far-right Vox called on Salvador Illa to resign and for the state of alarm in Madrid to be lifted

Health Minister Salvador Illa (l) in Congress today.
Health Minister Salvador Illa (l) in Congress today.POOL. Bernardo Díaz/El Mundo (Europa Press)

Public health is the only thing that is prompting the Spanish government to act, and that is why measures must be taken to avoid new coronavirus infections and flatten the curve. That was the argument cited by the health minister, Salvador Illa, during a session in Spain’s lower house of parliament today to justify the declaration on Friday of a state of alarm in Madrid, despite the fierce opposition of the regional government there to such a move.

Illa was required by the Constitution to appear in the Congress of Deputies in order to explain the decision taken by the coalition government, which is headed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and supported by junior partner Unidas Podemos. There was no vote required on the state of alarm in Congress today, but the support of deputies will be needed should the government opt to extend it beyond this initial two-week period.

The minister avoided confrontation with the opposition Popular Party (PP) during his appearance in Congress, but he did draw attention to the collaboration of the majority of Spain’s regions with the Health Ministry’s efforts to combat the second wave of the virus, which is in stark contrast to the attitude of the Madrid regional government.

Health Minister Salvador Illa pointed out that, unlike Madrid, most of Spain‘s region have collaborated with the central government to combat the second wave of the virus

The latter administration is governed by the conservative PP in coalition with center-right Ciudadanos (CItizens), propped up by the far-right Vox. Hostility between the Madrid government and the central executive has reached new heights in recent weeks, with the PP premier of the region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, hugely critical of the state of alarm as well as the government’s handling of the health crisis in general. The executive implemented the emergency measure after Ayuso missed a deadline to introduce stricter measures herself.

“The situation is fragile, worrying and changeable,” Illa told Congress today, calling for “political unity.” But this fell on deaf ears, with PP spokesperson Cuca Gamarra accusing the coalition government of being “rabid” and acting under the “yoke of despotism” with its move to implement perimetral confinements in nine municipalities in the Madrid region – including the Spanish capital – under the state of alarm.

Both the PP and Vox called for Illa to resign and for the government to lift the state of alarm during Thursday’s session in Congress. Rafael Mayoral, however, of Unidas Podemos, opted to strongly criticize the situation in Madrid due to the inaction of the regional government and the “fanatical” behavior of its politicians.

The spokesperson for leftist party Más País, meanwhile, Íñigo Errejón, bemoaned the bitter political debate on display both today and during a separate session in Congress on Wednesday. “Politics has failed due to partisan skirmishes, but that does not stop us from stating that we arrived late at the first and the second wave [of the coronavirus],” added Edmundo Bal of Ciudadanos.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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