Spain’s prime minister is seeking a final month-long extension of the emergency powers behind the country’s coronavirus lockdown, as tension with his political opponents reaches new heights. In an address to the nation on Saturday, Pedro Sánchez said a countrywide survey of infection rates had vindicated his government’s cautious approach to the lockdown, which has infuriated the regional authorities in Madrid. “Prudence should still be the rule . . . If we choose to give priority to business over health, we will end up losing both,” the Spanish prime minister said.
He declared that the state of alarm, which was implemented on 14th March in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, had worked. “The path that we are taking is the only one possible,” he said, in reference to the use of the state of alarm to give the government special powers, including recentralising healthcare from the regions to Madrid, and introducing the confinement measures that are still in place, and which have been among the strictest in the world.
He argued that Spain’s coronavirus study had shown the seriousness of the disease and the impracticality of pursuing so-called herd immunity, a policy he said would have cost Spain 300,000 lives. On Saturday the country reported the smallest daily death toll since the beginning of the lockdown: a two-month low of 102 people. Mr Sánchez added that the survey, which carried out antibody tests on more than 60,000 people, had shown that the “true lethality” of Covid-19 was one in a hundred and that without the lockdown 30m people could have been infected. At present, he said, the rate with which the virus was spreading was 0.24 percent a day, down from 35 percent at its peak.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) leader argued that the scientific facts have shown that a “herd immunity” approach would not have been successful, and defended the need to limit mobility and social contact. “That’s the logic behind the de-escalation process,” he explained.
More than half of Spain was in Phase 1 of the government’s plan by the beginning of last week, with more areas joining yesterday (Monday 18th May). For now, the Madrid region and the city of Barcelona will remain in Phase 0, albeit with some loosening of restrictions. “The de-escalation could be finished in half of the country by the start of summer,” Sánchez added, repeatedly calling for prudence going forward.
The Prime Minister also explained that his government would request one more extension to the state of alarm. “This extension will be different,” he said. “It is expected to be the last state of alarm. We are going to request in the Congress of Deputies that it lasts for a month.” The current state of alarm in Spain is due to expire on 24th May.