Extraordinary Council of Ministers. Coronavirus COVID-19.

President of the Government states that government will spare no efforts in reducing social and economic consequences of coronavirus as far as possible

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Thursday 12 March 2020

The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree-Law with exceptional measures that will allow up to 18.23 billion euros to be freed up during the year to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, underlined that the government's efforts are focused on two fronts: health and economics, particularly of those sectors hardest hit by the consequences of the disease and on the most vulnerable groups.

Pedro Sánchez acknowledged that Spain is undergoing an unprecedented healthcare emergency and outlined a series of measures agreed on Thursday in the fields of healthcare, families, businesses and public authorities, in addition to those already adopted by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday and other additional initiatives that different ministerial departments are drawing up.

Measures contained in Royal Decree-Law

In order to strengthen the health system, protect medical and hospital activity, the President of the Government announced that 2.8 billion euros will be transferred to regional governments to make more resources available. Another 1 billion euros will be released from the Contingency Fund for budget performance to cater for priority interventions. The government may also set the maximum price for the sale of drugs and healthcare material to the public necessary for protection from the virus so as to avoid price hikes.

The measures to support families enhance the care for children and the most vulnerable groups of society. With this aim in mind, an extraordinary allocation of 25 million euros was approved to strengthen social services in the different regions. Those families that have subsidised school dinners may enjoy this service even though schools are closed.

In order to support business activity, Pedro Sánchez announced that SMEs will be entitled to defer payment of their tax debts, or settle them in instalments, that are owed to the tax authorities for an interest-free period of six months. This will allow some 14 billion euros of liquidity to be injected into the economy. A specific line of financing will also be made available through the Official Credit Institute for the sum of 400 million euros to cater for the liquidity needs of companies and independent contractors in the tourism sector.

Central Government may contract any kind of goods or services it may require to combat COVID-19 on an emergency basis and make budgetary items more flexible to address this.

The President of the Government explained that the impact of the decisions being adopted to tackle coronavirus will require a new "extra-social" National Budget that alleviates "the ravages of this health and economic emergency". In this regard, he called for a parliamentary majority to allow the passage of the draft law through Parliament and its approval.

Additional measures

Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe different ministerial departments, continued the President of the Government, are adopting specific measures within their specific fields of action.

Renfe will facilitate ticket changes and cancellations, at no additional cost, as from Thursday, and will return the full amount of train tickets to all passengers on Imserso holiday programmes.

In coordination with the regional governments, and so as to alleviate the effects of the closure of education centres, the maximum limit on the number of school days will be adjusted, the calendars for university and vocational training entrances exams and enrolment will be altered and resources will be provided to provide online education.

Central Government workers may sign up to work modalities that do not require their physical presence and the working day will be made more flexible for those with children in their charge. Those who are in isolation will receive full pay during the time they remain in this situation.

For its part, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has drafted a Guide on good health practices for tourist sector establishments and workers in this area. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided reinforcements to man the Consular Emergency Unit to attend to Spaniards affected abroad, and the Ministries of Consumer Affairs, and of Industry, Trade and Tourism will coordinate to guarantee the supply of basic products and will urge the National Markets and Competition Commission to oversee potentially abusive prices.

Responsibility and discipline, scientific criteria and institutional collaboration

The President of the Government argued that "if we want to overcome this virus quickly, social responsibility and discipline are essential". Pedro Sánchez also highlighted that the only path to victory for the country as a whole against this virus is to adhere to changes in hygiene, meeting, work, leisure and transport habits and to follow official recommendations. "We will overcome this emergency, but we must do this as quickly as possible, and with the least human harm possible".

"Each citizen must take extreme care of their own health to thus care for others, particularly the most vulnerable groups; each person has a duty to protect themselves and as such protect others", stressed the President of the Government, who conveyed to Spanish citizens his recognition of the civic spirit with which they are taking on these exceptional measures.

In addition, Pedro Sánchez has stated that all measures are being taken in coordination with European partners and that the Government "will spare no effort to minimise the social and economic consequences of this health tragedy." "Our determination is high and our action guide clear: we will do whatever is necessary, wherever and whenever it may be necessary", he added.

The President of the Government also praised the work of both national and international public health experts, in "an extraordinarily difficult task under a great deal of pressure" that they have been doing for some weeks now, and that of the healthcare professionals - "the most valuable shield we have in tackling this disease".

Pedro Sánchez thanked the regional governments, local councils and all public bodies that are responding "in a spirit of cooperation and coordination", regardless of their political leaning. The President of the Government considered that the model of response based on unity of goals and actions is the right approach and expressed his willingness to study any measure that "the opposition or any public authority" proposes that can be seen to be beneficial to the country as a whole.

Recommendations

During his speech, Pedro Sánchez also referred to the measures to keep a distance socially and to the recommendations being issued by the health authorities in recent weeks. Among these, he recalled the need to cancel educational activities, to work from home when possible, to avoid non-essential trips, to attend health centres when symptoms manifest and to try and ensure that the elderly stay at home or in their residence.

In terms of leisure activities, the President of the Government recalled that all national and international sporting events, whether professional or amateur, must be held behind closed doors. Events that involve attendance of less than 1,000 people must reduce their attendance to one third of the maximum capacity and those exceeding 1,000 must be cancelled.

Non official translation