CORONAVIRUS

Spanish PM warns of more Christmas restrictions if coronavirus figures worsen

Pedro Sánchez appeared in parliament to explain the government’s actions since the state of alarm went into effect in late October

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez addressing lawmakers on Wednesday.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez addressing lawmakers on Wednesday.EUROPA PRESS/E. Parra. POOL - Eu / Europa Press

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday told Congress that “if we need to toughen up the Christmas plan, nobody should harbor any doubt that the government of Spain will propose it.”

In a congressional appearance to inform lawmakers of the government’s actions under the current state of alarm, which is due to last until May 9, Sánchez alluded to the measures aimed at preventing coronavirus contagion over the Christmas holidays when a lot of travel and gatherings are expected to take place.

The best way of preventing contagion is for each one of us to act as though we were infected, because we don’t know if we are
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez

Central and regional health officials recently drafted a plan with coordinated measures for those days, but some regional governments have since introduced even stricter measures in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. On Wednesday, Sánchez suggested that the central government might rethink the Christmas strategy depending on how epidemiological data evolve.

“The best way of preventing contagion is for each one of us to act as though we were infected, because we don’t know if we are,” he said. “Let’s enjoy Christmas at home, let’s go out just on essential business, let’s observe hygiene and social distancing measures. Let’s not throw all [our effort] overboard. It is entirely up to us to prevent a third wave.”

After five weeks on a downward trend, the incidence rate has started to rise again. But Sánchez was optimistic about the coronavirus situation compared with other European countries, although he cautioned against relaxing measures during the holiday season. “We cannot let our guard down. We have fought hard all year, united, and we are now facing this one last effort,” said the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), who heads a minority coalition with the leftist Unidas Podemos.

But opposition leader Pablo Casado, of the Popular Party (PP), accused the prime minister of “never getting tired of lying” on practically every issue relating to the pandemic. He said that Sánchez has tried to concentrate all power in his own hands while avoiding opposition oversight, but that he has also shifted responsibility to the regions with the excuse of respecting Spain’s system of devolved powers.

Casado warned that his party will not support the government’s plan for judicial reform, or its 2021 budget, or its coronavirus vaccination plan which is due to begin soon.

Under the terms of the state of alarm that was approved in late October, regional governments are allowed to restrict freedom of movement by sealing off high-incidence areas and introducing border closures. There is also a national curfew in place, although starting times vary depending on the region. But there is no stay-at-home order, in contrast with the first state of alarm that lasted from mid-March to mid-June.

Sánchez has pledged to inform the lower house of parliament every two months of the government’s actions throughout the duration of the state of alarm. On Wednesday he insisted that this constitutional tool “has worked” and has proven to be useful in fighting the pandemic.

English version by Susana Urra.

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