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Speech by President of the Government in Lower House of Parliament to ask for extension to state of emergency

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Wednesday 20 May 2020


Good day. It is now 10 weeks since we decreed the state of emergency on 14 March and approved very strict social lockdown measures. We have gone through this time together in which this pandemic has taken away the lives of our family members, friends, loved ones, and interrupted daily life in our country, and elsewhere around the world, limiting the way we live and compromising the viability of businesses, jobs and projects.

What seemed like something out of another era ended up happening to us. What nobody expected did indeed happen.

These 10 weeks have left a trail of pain that will remain in the memory of our country forever. Not all of us are here today. We are missing 27,000 compatriots that we have just held a minute's silence for and to whom we will pay a fitting tribute to as soon as the health conditions allow us to.

Honourable Members, 10 weeks have now gone by. Accordingly, allow me to give a brief chronological review of the path we have gone down to date.

On 10 March, I took part in an extraordinary meeting of the European Council which addressed, for the first time, the COVID-19 crisis and I stated then that the European Commission and also the Eurogroup would announce joint economic and financial measures. I announced then that we were facing a global health emergency that was affecting dozens of countries and hence we needed to find a coordinated response and a European and a multilateral response at a global level. We are working in a coordinated and priority fashion with the regional governments, the social stakeholders and the political forces.

That day I textually said the following, "to combat this public health emergency, we will do whatever needs to be done, wherever and whenever it needs to be done". And I announced that "have no doubts, together we will overcome this crisis". Today, Honourable Members, I can affirm each and every one of those words.

I then announced that we were working on an Action Plan with a triple safety net, which in the end comprised four pillars in different areas:

Firstly, to protect and guarantee the well-being of Spanish families, particularly working families.

Secondly, measures to guarantee the supply and production of medical material and access to health material.

Thirdly, measures to protect jobs in sectors affected by the shutdown caused by the health emergency.

And fourthly, to make every effort and invest all the resources necessary to provide liquidity to independent contractors, small- and medium-sized enterprises, in short, to the productive sector of our country.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally declared that the COVID-19 outbreak was a pandemic, because the disease was spreading around the world and we lacked, as we still do, the medical treatment to protect us from this virus. That same day, I reiterated that this pandemic had a triple consequence, not only at a health level, but also at an economic and a social level.

Hence, we were facing, as we are now, an unprecedented emergency that lacks an instruction manual that works. We can only be guided by knowledge and science, and even then with certain limitations, because clearly science is also facing an unknown virus in having to take joint and coordinated decisions. Spain would see itself overwhelmed by the disease and by pain, at full speed. And society started to visualise the nightmare we were starting to face with dread.

And faced with an exceptional situation, the only response from this House possible was an exceptional response, which we gave. We started to approve and immediately implement different sets of health, social and economic measures to leave no-one behind.

Doing whatever it took, as I said before, wherever and whenever necessary. And on 13 March - 48 hours after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, I announced the declaration of the state of emergency agreed by the government, which was formally decreed the next day, on 14 March. We then commenced an accelerated mitigation stage with one clear goal - to contain the virus, to avoid its spread and to save lives. To do that, what we had to do was flatten the curve. And do it as quickly as possible and with the least loss of life possible. Everyone, as a community, had a mission, a common goal. The most important and effective step, I repeat, was to stay at home to look after those that look after us.

Honourable Members, we were the first European country to declare a state of emergency, both due to the number of people infected and in the number of deaths at that time.

I wish to once again underline that Spain has always followed the recommendations of the WHO, of the international and European health experts, and obviously of the extraordinary Health Alert and Emergency Coordination Centre, whose members we will always be grateful to, for their professionalism, dedication and commitment.

Honourable Members, allow me to remind you that on 12 February 2020, the organisers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona decided to cancel the event following the withdrawal of some companies and manufacturers from the event. Their reason, as is well-known, was the mistrust caused by the presence of some companies from Asia, particularly China and South Korea, in light of the possibility of the spread of a disease that, at that time, we saw from Europe as limited to Asia.

A good example of that is the reaction that the cancellation caused among public opinion in our country. You only have to read the editorials in the most important media at that time to recall how COVID-19 was viewed in Spain. They spoke about "precipitation", unjustified alarm" and an "epidemic of fear". In short, these were expressions reiterated by the opposition, and also the leading media, which criticised the government for the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress. And there were no exceptions. There were no contradictory opinions. In mid-February, Honourable Members, COVID-19 was still a vague and remote threat, apparently alien to us. The benefit of hindsight had still not come into play. And that was the case during the next few weeks following that.

However, barely 30 days later, our country was forced to decree a state of emergency in view of the presence of the explosive outbreak of the pandemic in our country, one of the worst affected in the world by the spread of COVID-19. In just 30 days, we went from widespread incredulity to the need to place the whole country in an unprecedented lockdown in our history as the only way to prevent our National Health System from collapsing and the death of hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen.

Honourable Members, all large Western countries have gone through exactly the same process as us as, one by one, they have had to impose - some with certain qualms, let's not forget that - general lockdown measures on their people. Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and then the United States, and we are now seeing this extend to the whole of the American continent; each and every great Western power has had to adopt the same measures and lived through the same tragedy as out country. The pandemic, consequently, Honourable Members, has not been a unique problem in our country.

The situation leads us to see that this pandemic recognises no borders, and we have said this on many occasions from this podium; it pays no heed to ways of thinking, political hues, ideologies or gender. The virus affects people without asking where they were born, where they live or what they think. But its consequences, Honourable Members, do affect people in an uneven manner depending on each individual situation.

On 17 March - four days after announcing the decree of the state of emergency and of paralysing a good part of our economy - I announced, from this podium, the release of 200 billion euros - the largest volume of financial resources in the democratic history of our country, to halt the recession stemming from the shutdown of economic activity.

This is the largest social and business safety net ever created in our history, which clearly responds to the magnitude of the economic and social challenge we face. This crisis can teach us, in my opinion, in the opinion of this government, great lessons, the most visible of which is that the capacity of our public system is our best dam to protect us from any threat and hence we must defend it, strengthen it and preserve it during the pandemic, and clearly after the pandemic. And consequently, we need to translate the applause that is heard every day around the country to support our healthcare workers, into lasting public policies, whatever people may think, wherever they may live and however they may vote. For everyone. And that, Honourable Members, is what the Government of Spain is doing.

On 18 March, I announced in this House that the government would set up a Study and Evaluation Committee to closely analyse the situation of the public health system in our country and to consequently prepare a White Paper in order to make the adjustments and changes that it became clear were needed. And I also announced that we would present a budget for the social and economic reconstruction as soon as possible, with the support of the parliamentary groups after defeating the virus and consequently once we had evaluated the economic and social impact of this emergency.

On 4 April, I urged the political forces, and also the regional governments, local authorities and social stakeholders to start to work on a Social and Economic Reconstruction Agreement based on unity and loyalty. And some days later we agreed that this agreement should be structured within the framework of a parliamentary committee, that is now up and running, and where working groups have been approved to work in certain thematic areas.

We then went through some very tough and tragic weeks, Honourable Members, in which everything was very bleak, in which our healthcare workers waged an unequal war against a lethal enemy, in which the victims were counted by the hundred and the solution was nowhere in sight. Let's remember, Honourable Members, we then went so far as to decree a total shutdown of all non-essential activities for two weeks, taking advantage of Easter.

And I want to underline that the response by the public has been, and remains, remarkable. Old and young, teachers and pupils, men and women, workers and business owners, all of our countrymen united in complying with their mission with social discipline and also a scent for victory.

And progress was made. Through the hard work and sacrifice of all involved, progress was made. And little-by-little, we have got our finger back on the pulse: first with the return to work after Easter; then with gradual measures as from 27 April to alleviate the lockdown, starting with those under the age of 14, our boys and girls. Then later, on 2 May, we stepped up the measures to ease the lockdown for everyone else. In short, Honourable Members, with a lot of effort, we are slowly defeating the pandemic.

Meanwhile, and as of the start of April, we spent weeks, as I also announced from this podium, working on the De-escalation Plan, what we have called the Plan for the Transition to a New Normality. To do that, we gathered the opinions and proposals of experts at a scientific, health, social, economic and business level. In parallel, but in coordination, meetings were held and proposals exchanged with the leaders of the regional authorities, and also the local authorities, and obviously with the social stakeholders too. And on 28 April, I presented this Plan, as a result of collective, shared and responsible work, following its approval by the Council of Ministers.

Let me be clear on this, Honourable Members; we have not got here by chance or by inertia. We have got here through the extreme work of our healthcare workers and the sacrifice, commitment and social discipline of all the people of our country. It is the Spanish people who are defeating the virus. It is the citizens of this country who have flattened the curve together. It is the Spanish people who have halted this virus together. And no-one, I stress, no-one, is entitled to knock down what we have all achieved together over the course of these long weeks of lockdown.

As you know, at present, 70% of our country is in Phase 1 of the de-escalation. Spain, consequently, is getting back to work, our people are recovering their freedom of movement and the economic fabric is slowly coming alive. And it is also true that, in the opinion of the health experts, Madrid, Barcelona and its metropolitan area and some health departments of Castile and Leon, must remain in Phase 0 for the time being, although with measures that have been significantly eased in terms of the restrictions on stores opening and also in terms of some recreational activities. And the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands of La Graciosa, El Hierro, La Gomera and Formentera are now in Phase 2.

As I warned, the Plan for the Transition towards the New Normality, the De-escalation Plan, is asymmetrical, gradual and coordinated. But asymmetrical does not means a lack of unity or order. We will come out of this at different speeds, but we will come out of this together. There is no exit through disorder or division.

Honourable Members, in my briefings I have said, and always maintained, that the first achievement will come when we overcome, as a people, as a community, the peak of the spread of the disease and flatten the curve. And I can acknowledge that we have achieved this. The Spanish people recognised and achieved this.

And that the second achievement would come when the balance of medical discharges was higher than the number of new infections. And I will just give you one figure. In this last week, that is from Monday 11 to Sunday 17, there were 15,785 people cured compared when 3,947 diagnosed. The previous week there were 8.316 new cases. This has been going on for some days in a sustained fashion - the number of people recovered has got higher while the number of new infections has got lower. Hence, we have clearly achieved the second milestone that I just mentioned.

The third milestone, which we haven't achieved yet but are on the road to achieving, will take place when the number of new infections drops drastically. It is true that we have made progress, a great deal of progress - you have the figures - through a lot of hard work, sacrifice and also a scent for victory from Spanish society as a whole.

Let's remind ourselves of a few figures, Honourable Members. Two months ago, the virus was spreading at a rate of 35% daily. Each person infected transmitted the disease to more than three and a half other people. The reproduction rate is now well below one, at around 0.2. But we must assume that, until such time as we have a treatment and also a vaccine, we will live with the virus because it won't have disappeared from our lives or from our society. And the threat is particularly acute in this second stage in which we find ourselves, in this de-escalation, because there are still hundreds of people infected each day that we must detect, care for and isolate. Consequently, what I want to say to you, Honourable Members, is that prudence and caution must be an overarching policy in the political decisions we take.

And with all this prudence and caution, without dropping our guard, we can assert that the state of emergency has worked. The state of emergency has worked, Honourable Members. And the De-escalation Plan is working. It has benefitted all the regions, and consequently, all the Spanish people, wherever they may live.

There are some other certainties after almost 10 weeks since the declaration of the state of emergency that I would like to share with all of you. Last week, for example, we notified the results of the first wave, the first phase, of the Seroprevalence Study - unprecedented in Europe at today's date - coordinated by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Science, under the leadership of the Carlos III Health Institute, which was carried out - which I also want to acknowledge - with the incalculable collaboration of the regional governments, without which it would not have been possible.

This study reveals three issues that I want to share with all of you; three figures of tremendous value:

The first is that the infection has not affected the whole country evenly. There are some provinces where the percentage of people who have been in contact with the virus is ten times higher than in other provinces, even in the outermost provinces.

The second figure is that only 5% of citizens have been infected by COVID-19, with or without symptoms.

The third figure is that the real fatality rate of COVID-19 stands at around 1%, which significantly rises among the elderly, as we have unfortunately seen in recent weeks, and among those with underlying conditions.

From this study I would like to take away two lessons to share with you:

The first lesson is that the state of emergency has benefitted the whole country, all our citizens, and all the regions equally. It has benefitted the worst affected areas, for example the Region of Madrid - where the number of people infected has clearly fallen - and it has benefited those areas less affected because it has meant that those infected have not travelled there - Murcia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands and many others. I stress, consequently, that the state of emergency has been effective in all regions of the country, and has consequently benefitted all the Spanish people.

The second lesson is that the path we are going down together - which I wish to underline, and I also wish to express my gratitude for the backing of the parliamentary majority of this House for the extension of the state of emergency over these long weeks - is the only path possible to effectively defeat the virus. Prudence, caution and safety as our guide have been vital in halting the spread of the virus.

Just look, at the start of the emergency, there were those, not only in Spain but also elsewhere, even important leaders of important countries, who said that the only possible solution would be to allow the virus to spread freely until it reached a point that the epidemiological experts called "herd immunity". In other words, 60 to 70% of the population should get infected and thus become immunised, and the virus would then stop spreading. We now know that, if we had followed that strategy, two thirds of the Spanish population, that is 30 million fellow countrymen, would have been infected, and consequently we would now be looking at some 300,000 victims. Probably a lot more because clearly the National Health System would have collapsed and consequently many more people would have died than the number we have unfortunately recorded already.

This, Honourable Members, is not conjecture. They are not suppositions; they are facts. My thanks, consequently, as I said before, to all the MPs who over the course of these long weeks have supported the extension of the state of emergency because their vote has prevented the spread of the virus and saved thousands and thousands of lives of our countrymen. Thank you.

We have regained considerable lost ground, Honourable Members, against the virus, but it is still out there lurking, as we have said on many occasions. To defeat it, it is essential that we get ahead of it and keep it at bay to avoid further outbreaks and second waves.

And we can only get ahead of our enemy if we commit to safety in each phase of the de-escalation, if we commit to coordination, to collaboration, to solidarity and to institutional loyalty. Because the de-escalation is not a test. Nor should it be a contest between regions. De-escalation is a scientific exercise in prudence.

Honourable Members, I have submitted to the control of this House on 25 March, on 9 and 22 April and on 6 May, when I had the chance to request the corresponding extensions to the state of emergency from the Honourable Members under the advice of the experts with the fundamental aim of continuing to save lives, of avoiding the collapse of the National Health System and of continuing to support workers and the productive fabric of our country.

Now, this extension obviously has different characteristics because we are now at a completely different stage to where we were on 14 March.

The government's proposal, which is what I submit for your consideration and vote, is that under this new extension the only government delegate authority should be Minister Illa, the Minister for Health. The minister will obviously continue to be supported by the advice of the technical staff in his department. He will be in touch with and coordinate with the regional governments; he will be the person, together with the regional governments, to set the pace and the form of the de-escalation. And the exceptional powers granted at the start of the state of emergency to the Ministries of Defence, of Home Affairs, and of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, will lapse. By the way, since they are here, I wish to thank the Ministers for Defence, for Home Affairs, and for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda for the work they have done over the course of these ten weeks of the state of emergency.

Equally, in this period, as has started to happen for the last two weeks, a basic principle prevails for this government, which is that of co-governance. It is the regional governments that have always maintained their full capacity to manage their health powers and I wish to underline that, recall that and reiterate that, if you please. The Royal Decree declaring the state of emergency on 14 March established a central command that had to coordinate all the questions relating to the health emergency, but it did not take over any of the functions - none - from any of the regional health councillors.

It literally stated the following and I would like to recall this so that it is recorded in the minutes of this session. "Each Administration", stated the Decree, "will maintain the powers granted to it in prevailing legislation in the ordinary management of its services to adopt the measures it may deem opportune within the framework of the direct orders from the competent authority for the purposes of the state of emergency". And further on, the words of the Decree continued by saying, "The regional public authorities, and also local authorities, will continue to manage, within their respective jurisdictions, the corresponding health services, ensuring their adequate functioning at all times".

Honourable Members, it is good to underscore this so as not to confound the people. 10 weeks on and in my opinion everything is a lot clearer. The government established during the state of emergency a legal framework through decrees and ministerial orders, but at no time has this replaced the ordinary authorities in the handling of their services. Let me put it another way, the regional governments have never lost their co-responsibility in the exercise of their powers. They were merely coordinated and strengthened on the matters of public health, public order and mobility.

So, as well as continuing to exercise all their jurisdictional powers with full normality - I am referring to the regional governments - in this latter stage of the de-escalation they will gradually recover their full capacity for decision-making. So, the autonomous regions, and more specifically their Primary Care services will adopt an ever increasingly important role in managing the coming weeks of the de-escalation. Consequently, I wish the regional governments every success and guarantee them full loyal support on the part of the Government of Spain.

Honourable Members, let me be clear; in this situation of extraordinary crisis, ordinary legislation would have proven insufficient and political tensions have proven to be useless.

There has been a lot of discussion, not just from this podium, and I am convinced that the Honourable Members will also engage in discussions regarding, above all, setting a position on whether or not to extend the state of emergency. I said that there has been much discussion about the need for the state of emergency, to maintain the exceptional situation in which we are still living. Some political forces, particularly the conservatives, have said that there were sufficient other legal tools available to tackle the health crisis without reducing - they maintain - the freedoms of our people.

And in this regard, Honourable Members, I wish to share some reflections with you.

First of all, the state of emergency is absolutely legal, emanating, no less, from the core element of our legislative system, which is the Spanish Constitution. This is not something that has been invented by the Government of Spain. Nor have most European governments that have resorted to a type of legal and constitutional instrument similar to our own invented this. There are some constitutional articles that fortunately have a restricted use, as is the case here, but which were granted by the people precisely to address those situation in which they are necessary, such as the present one.

The second thought I would like to leave you with is that the whole legal system is geared towards the principle of economy, which consists of achieving the desired legal goals by using the minimum resources. That is why duplicated legal figures do not, or should not, exist.

It thus makes no sense for the Government of Spain to be asked to replace the state of emergency at a time of emergency with a set of ordinary laws that are conceived for ordinary situations which is not the case as this present time. Laws which furthermore contain loopholes that are impossible to cover, such as the possibility of restricting movement and another basic right in our democracy which is the freedom of assembly. Furthermore, Honourable Members, if we did replace this, it would only serve to obstruct the legal process, side-track energies that we need to resolve the health, economic and social crises, and hamper coordination between different public authorities at a critical time such as the present.

What we will do, Honourable Members, is plan. We will start to analyse and debate with you and negotiate the amendment of various laws to guarantee the correct form of governance once we have lifted the state of emergency. These necessary reforms will foreseeably be very specific and with the sole aim, as I said before, of managing the tracking of the pandemic once the state of emergency is lifted. These laws that we will analyse will basically be the health laws; that is, the 1986 General Health Act; the 2003 Cohesion and Quality of the National Health System Act and, above all, the 2011 General Public Health Act.

We will also study the National Security Act, approved in 2015, given that epidemics and pandemics are among the situations of interest for national security, as established in the National Security Strategy.

The third reflection I would like to share with you is the following. What benefits would there be at this time of lifting the state of emergency? Or to put it another way, what rights are sought to be returned or restored in this way?

Is it intended to re-establish the full right to free movement of people with no form of restriction? Do we want everyone to be able to freely travel anywhere around the country without limits?

I believe that we all agree that it is not the time to do that and a de-escalation plan already exists that covers the different phases in which this can take place gradually and progressively. I would dare to say that this gradual nature of the de-escalation received the consensus of the scientists and with few exceptions, I am convinced, despite how you may vote, that with almost the full political consensus of this House.

Is the aim to re-establish the right to open shops, offices and companies without restrictions? I don't think anyone would consider that possibility to be reasonable, from a health perspective. We may disagree on some speeds or paces, but no-one disagrees with the essential, core principle of a gradual and safe de-escalation for each form of economic activity in our country.

Is the aim to re-establish the right to exercise, with no type of limitation or restriction, the right to assembly, including the possibility of holding mass events in stadiums, demonstrations, in concert halls and in the streets?

I believe we all agree that this would be incredibly irresponsible, despite what you might vote for. If we have all reached the conclusion that some of these events help spread the virus, then it doesn't seem very sensible to allow this type of demonstration to be held without restrictions.

What other rights or freedoms of our citizens have been limited under the state of emergency, Honourable Members? The right to information? The right to privacy? The right to freedom of expression? The state of emergency, Honourable Members, has been absolutely respectful of each and every one of these individual rights.

And aside from individual rights, which are fully guaranteed, perhaps some of you feel that the ban on dismissing workers during the state of emergency is unfair. This is a labour law measure that the Government of Spain has approved and which it takes full responsibility for, and of course some of you may not agree on, but which under no circumstance justifies lifting the state of emergency.

The fourth and final reflection I would like to make to you on this matter is that there is no contradiction between the state of emergency and the institutional de-escalation that returns the full powers to the regional authorities. They are complementary. We have shown this in the last two weeks and will continue to show that in the weeks to come in the transition towards this new normality.

In fact, under this new extension, as I said before, the Minister for Home Affairs, for Defence, for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda will no longer be delegate authorities; only the Minister for Health will remain as the sole exceptional command in his field as the reference health authority.

This command is still necessary, and I believe that we all agree that the command of the Ministry of Health is still necessary, but in spite of that, this does not exclude co-governance with the regional health authorities. Furthermore, I would like to make a reference on this matter, because this government, and I have said this from this podium before, not only since the approval of the state of emergency, but also in my investiture speech, believes in a State of Autonomies, it believes in the current composition of the State of Autonomies. The 10 Conferences of Presidents, for the first time in the history of our democracy - 10 Conferences of Presidents in as many weeks - one meeting a week, that I have held with the regional presidents, have been State meetings, joint work meetings to attend to the Spanish people. I have also held meetings with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces and with the social stakeholders. Could these Conferences of Presidents be improved? Assuredly, Honourable Members. I reiterate, this is the first time in the history of our democracy that so many Conferences of Presidents have been held in such a short period of time. No doubt they could be improved but they are State meetings, Honourable Members. And this government has repeated throughout the whole state of emergency that it will not hold special powers for a day longer than is necessary. Not a day longer.

The extension, Honourable Members, we are asking for is for 15 days. The evolution of the epidemic demands prudence. The state of emergency should prevail until such time as it is no longer necessary to partially restrict some rights to the benefit of public health, and not a day more. I repeat, not a day more. The state of emergency was decreed, it was extended and we only intend to extend it now to save lives, let's take that on-board - only to save lives, to defend the public health of the Spanish people and consequently guarantee the foundations of our co-existence. It has never had any other goal.

When all of this is over, and it will be over, when we reach the new normality or even when, once a future vaccine or treatment is found, we return to normal, which we hope will be soon, Honourable Members, many things will need changing. But these will be things that we will decide amongst all of us here. Things that citizens will decide through their political leaders, which are all of you. Under no circumstance will these be things that have been decided on and implemented during the state of emergency. I want you, Honourable Members, and the Spanish people, to have that quite clear. That is a commitment of the Government of Spain.

Honourable Members, I believe that this whole effort we have made as a society over the course of these 10 long weeks has shown that we have a future. Spain is getting ever closer to recovering its full vitality, and our people are getting ever closer to fully recovering their lives. Hence, we have a future and there is hope. And yet, this pandemic has brought with it terrible economic consequences that don't affect everyone equally. Since the outset, the government has constantly approved measures with the sole aim - and you heard us say this on many occasions - of not leaving anyone behind.

The causes of this economic recession have absolutely nothing to do with previous crises, I think we can all agree on that. That is reason enough for not applying the solutions that then only served to impose levels of social inequality and unprecedented political disaffection.

If this crisis is completely different to the last one, then the form of exiting it must be even more radically different.

Of course, what we have done to date does not cover all our goals, that is clear. We must persevere, we must maintain our course, we cannot fall into conformity nor clearly into self-complacency. These actions serve to describe the path we have decided to go down as a society and to express the determination with which we seek to do things in the coming weeks.

The estimated cost of the measures and guarantees included in the Stability Plan we sent to Brussels last week is more than 138.9 billion euros, of which 106.77 billion will be allocated to economic measures, 4.31 billion to health measures, more than 27 billion to labour measures and more than 816 million to social measures.

1.4 billion euros have been allocated under the Contingency Fund to the Ministry of Health, for expenses related to healthcare, of which 98.2% have been drawn down already, and purchases of medical and health material have been made for the sum of 889 million euros. In 10 weeks, Honourable Members. Funds have also been distributed for the sum of 300 million euros on social policies in the regions.

We estimate the line of State guarantees through the Official Credit Institute amounts to the sum of 100 billion euros for companies, above all for small- and medium-sized enterprises and for independent contractors. The first three tranches have been activated, Honourable Members, for the sum of 64.5 billion euros. 371,000 operations have been formalised, which amounts to total financing granted to companies of 47.75 billion euros. These are astronomical figures.

The period for the presentation of the quarterly VAT return, the payment on account of Corporate Income Tax and Personal Income Tax return were all extended until 20 May. The measures will benefit 95% of companies and also independent contractors. This amounts to an injection of liquidity of more than 3.55 billion euros, including 1.1 billion under Corporate Income Tax.

134,442 agricultural workers included in the Special System for Self-Employed Workers have been applied a reduction of more than 19% in their contributions resulting from periods of inactivity in 2020.

As you are aware, companies were banned from dismissing workers on grounds related to COVID-19. All basic supplies for families that have become vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 crisis have been guaranteed.

Unemployment benefits have been automatically extended. More than 1 million independent contractors are receiving this benefit due to the cessation of their activity.

We have allocated 3 million euros to an extraordinary subsidy for a lack of activity for those people under the Special System for Domestic Workers under the General Social Security Regime, particularly women.

We approved Recoverable Paid Leave from 30 March to 9 April, for workers in non-essential sectors.

We have set up a Special Social Recovery Fund for the autonomous regions, to the tune of 16 billion euros, that are non-repayable for the first time in our country's history, which is currently in mid-negotiation.

And we have reached an agreement to defend jobs with business organisations and trade unions, which shows the social stakeholders have risen to the circumstances, which I wish to acknowledge from this podium, in this extraordinary situation we are in. The temporary lay-off plans (Spanish acronym: ERTEs) on grounds of force majeure due to COVID-19 may be extended, as you know, until 30 June, whether due to total force majeure (without activity re-commencing) or partial force majeure (with part of the activity recovered), and with the possibility of new extensions.

Honourable Members, it is clear that the economic scenario has completely changed. There will clearly be a hike in the public debt, not only of the Government of Spain but also of all governments around the world. There was no other alternative; we are absolutely clear about that. Every country will have to address levels of debt that were not included in their forecasts before the pandemic.

The government's forecasts, which are among the most conservative, among the most prudent of all the national and international bodies, point to a decline in our economic activity of 9.2% in 2020, which may be recovered as we expect growth of 6.8% in 2021.

And in line with the fall in activity, our labour market is expected to record a major decline, with a drop in employment of 9.7% in 2020.

Aware of the gravity of the socio-economic situation, the government has acted swiftly and resolutely in my opinion. The measures adopted to sustain economic activity have managed to cushion the number of jobs shed and the disappearance of a large part of the productive fabric of our country. The measures to maintain income have allowed, and I believe this is another important figure that we would do well to remember, 31% of the active population in our country - or more than 7.2 million people, to be protected due to these exceptional measures.

Now, the economic outlook and the end of the recession are subject to a very high degree of uncertainty, acknowledged by all the national and international bodies, since they depend on the speed at which the pandemic is controlled, and that there are no more setbacks in the De-escalation Plan.

This huge commotion caused by the pandemic has reminded us all of how fragile we are. But its impact, and I would also like to underline this from this podium, is not equal throughout society. This situation has affected, firstly, those people who were more vulnerable before the pandemic hit our society.

This is a group that had still not recovered from the effects of the 2008 crisis, the features of which you are familiar with, and who were also among the priorities of the coalition government that runs this country.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Spain, there were already 3.4 million people without an income that needed to go to the shops, for example, to replace old clothes; 2 million fellow countrymen that could not afford an Internet connection at home, above all in the countryside; 1.7 million people who could not pay for a dentist and 1 million people who could not afford to buy a second pair of shoes. More than 2 million boys and girls in country suffer from poverty.

In this regard, this crisis is similar to classical crises. All classes dropped several rungs on the income scale: those that were insecure became poor, some workers joined the ranks of the insecure and the middle classes became worse off.

But this crisis had a huge difference from those in the past - it has not hit economic and sectors and companies on grounds of productivity or efficiency. The worst hit sectors are not the least competitive, but the most exposed to the social restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

That is why there are companies and activities that are relatively protected from this new crisis, such as those engaged in the production and distribution of food, while there are other activities - such as restaurants, hotels, cafes and tourism, where the impact has been clearly negative.

This circumstance means the COVID-19 crisis, together with the traditional differences between those on high and low incomes, has forged a new distinction that I would like to share with all of you.

In the midst of the health emergency, we all suffer from a fear, logically, of catching the disease, but there are millions of people who are relatively calm about their economic and labour future, either because they have healthy equity, because they have a safe income, or because they receive a stable salary or a guaranteed pension. That part of Spain is protected and is made up of those who are protected (by themselves or externally) - those with fixed incomes, also those employees with stable and safe salaries, civil servants and holders of public pensions and income.

But there are many other people that do not know what will happen to their job because they are under a temporary lay-off plan, or what will happen with their business which has had to suspend its activity, and who simply don't know how they are going to survive if their unemployment benefit runs out that they have been receiving in recent weeks. Millions of Spaniards are wondering what is to become of their lives. Those people don't sleep soundly, nor do their families; in addition to concerns for their health, they have an even greater anguish that affects their very survival. They make up the unprotected Spain, the exposed Spain, which is who we must protect.

Insecure workers but also the self-employed make up this unprotected, exposed Spain; workers on temporary contracts, but also many owners of SMEs; those who are unemployed, but also thousands of entrepreneurs. It is made up of all those people that have been hit by the worst side of the health crisis, those who carry on activities most exposed to social contact. And consequently this unprotected, exposed Spain is made up of young people with little job security, casual labourers and those with unstable jobs. But it is also made up of small traders, the self-employed, professionals, entrepreneurs, and I could go on, Honourable Members. Many of these latter groups were developing professional and business projects that were perfectly viable before the start of the pandemic. But these have logically been stopped by the health emergency and the restrictions on social contact imposed.

That is why we need to treat this crisis differently to previous ones to overcome it.

Naturally, we must prevent anyone being left behind, being hung out to dry, that is the commitment of the Government of Spain and that is the line we have consequently started to act on, as I said, with subsidies, aid and also guarantees of liquidity.

Spain cannot allow itself the images of queues at the doors of social canteens. To that end, one of the main commitments of the Government of Spain is to set up the Minimum Living Income as soon as possible.

It is key, Honourable Members, not to leave anyone behind. To help the most vulnerable and prevent the thousands of civilian victims of the epidemic turning into millions of social victims. Consequently, we must help those who need it. That is what the Social and Economic Reconstruction Agreements will inevitable address.

Helping those in need is key, Honourable Members, but it is not enough. Because as well as helping those in need, we must help get up and running viable projects that have been interrupted and we must get those people who can back to work soon. That should also be addressed by the Social and Economic Reconstruction Agreements. Our response must thus be not just to help, but to decisively commit to economic reactivation and to get millions of workers back into the labour market.

This crisis has partially frozen our productive machine, but it has not destroyed it. There are perfectly viable activities, companies that are perfectly healthy; there are promising projects that have been paralysed. And these companies and these projects cannot be allowed to wither because, furthermore, millions of viable, healthy and promising jobs depend on them. That is the challenge of the Social and Economic Reconstruction Agreements - to help those who need it and reactivate jobs and the economy in Spain.

There is also a broad consensus at a business and social level as to the need to guide activity towards a new productive model, that is committed to science, to research, to knowledge, headed up by public education, the ecological transition, the digital transition and also a commitment to human capital. The ecological transition constitutes a key vector in the socio-economic transformation, both at a national and a European level. That is why we approved the Draft Climate Change Act yesterday. It is also necessary to correct the imbalances that still prevail from the financial crisis, at a fiscal, labour, scientific, innovative level, and also in relation to social and gender inequality in our country.

Honourable Members, understanding everything we need to resolve does not mean forgetting what we have achieved in the toughest days of adversity, which is why it is essential to continue with unity of action which is, in my opinion, the most effective weapon to win the battle against the virus. In this regard, the government is convinced that the exit from this crisis, in its triple dimension, not just health, but also social and economic, should include three factors, in my opinion. The first of these is the need to guarantee that the De-escalation Plan is satisfactorily implemented, leaving as little room as possible for potential new outbreaks of the disease. We cannot recover economic activity and create jobs if the De-escalation Plan is implemented too quickly, as this does not heed the scientific and expert criteria.

Secondly, I believe that the Reconstruction Committee should satisfactorily ensure a great National Reconstruction Agreement that is agreed upon by the political forces, regional governments, local authorities, in short, by the social stakeholders and all of civil society.

Honourable Members, the third key element involves Europe.

I repeat, these three elements - the De-escalation Plan, the National Reconstruction Agreement and a European financial package - are the three fundamental pillars if we want to reactivate our country's economy quickly.

We are facing a pandemic that we are also fighting on a European front. The Government of Spain has maintained a firm position that we have underlined and reiterated from this podium, not only by me but also by those responsible for negotiating this in Brussels. We have always understood European solidarity as one of the best tools to fight the virus. But also one of the best tools to fight for the idea of a Europe we believe in, something I believe most of the Honourable Members agree on. Now is the time to act together on the European front against this adversity.

To that end, since the start of the crisis, we have bene on the front line of negotiations, exercising leadership and forging consensuses at the four European Council meetings by video-conference that have been held to date, the last one on 23 April.

And also at the numerous formal and informal meetings of the different sectors of the European Council at which the government has taken part at all levels, and in the constant dialogue I have been maintaining with the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council and the leaders of other Member States, particularly in the last few days.

The first measure arrived when the Eurogroup announced at the start of March that it would make the public deficit criteria established in the Stability and Growth Pact more flexible.

Two weeks later, the European Central Bank launched a programme to purchase public debt valued at 750 billion euros; an unprecedented sum that will be a lifeline to Member States over the course of 2020.

The European Council meeting on 23 April approved a triple safety net, for the sum of 540 billion euros, which the Government of Spain played a key role in negotiating.

This is unprecedented at a European level, and will allow us to provide lines of liquidity without imposing conditions.

On the one part, as you know, by creating an unemployment re-insurance fund, which is the forerunner of the unemployment scheme that we want to set up at a European level, which will allow mechanisms to be financed to temporarily regulate employment, protecting workers, for a sum of 100 billion euros at an EU level. On another part, by financing companies through the European Investment Bank, fostering loans at a privileged interest rate to guarantee liquidity for a sum of 200 billion euros. And for the Member States, by creating these same lines of unconditional financing to tackle the health bill from COVID-19, for a sum of 240 billion euros. In total, I repeat, 540 billion euros.

The Government of Spain achieved at this European Council the commitment that this financial safety net would be set in motion as of 1 June. And with it, we sent out the first message of confidence, of security for our compatriots, for our companies, aware that this was just the first short-term step on the path to resolve the economic and social backlash of the crisis.

We also welcomed the roadmap for a coordinated de-escalation by the European Commission, advocating this same coordination for the re-establishment of internal movement around the EU. And last Monday, we also positively welcomed the joint initiative of the French and German Governments for the European recovery from COVID-19, which contains, as you know, many of the proposals made by the Government of Spain for a swift and supportive exit from the crisis. The European Recovery Fund proposed by these two governments amounts, at least, 500 billion euros in transfers for the countries and sectors hardest hit, and I believe that this is a step in the right direction for our country and for the European Union.

Hence, the government now expects that the European Commission brings to the table in the coming days an even more ambitious proposal to serve as the basis for an agreement for the economic and social reactivation of our continent, as it was entrusted to do, I repeat, by the European Council at its meeting on 23 April.

Now, Honourable Members, is the time to look further ahead and think about the medium and the long term; the social and economic recovery of the continent through the creation of a great agreement between all the EU Member States.

Honourable Members, the victory on the health front is closer every day. You have the figures; we have a future thanks to the sacrifice made by everyone. We have got here thanks to the exceptional efforts made by our healthcare workers, pharmacists, hauliers, supermarket workers, cleaning staff, traders, the State law enforcement agencies, the military, security guards, thousands of volunteers and their tremendous sense of responsibility at such a critical time, and consequently such a tough time for our country. I give them all my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the Government of Spain.

Unity, Honourable Members, is the most powerful force there is. It overcomes the adversities not through groups headed up by individuals, but by more united groups. Unity has saved thousands of lives in our country. We now need this unity to also extend to the socio-economic front, and also the political front to combat the socio-economic crisis because unity allows us to save many lives, companies and jobs.

The world, Honourable Members, is going through the stages of this pandemic, the worst in 100 years. And we are doing this fighting on all fronts. This is a brief overview of the last few weeks of our lives.

A fatal pandemic; a global pandemic, which has paralysed our country and the whole world. An unknown pandemic that is fast-moving and vicious, with shifting boundaries, that takes away lives, that ruins businesses, that sows desolation and social deprivation.

And we are beating it on the health front. We are now immersed in a socio-economic crisis of frightening proportions stemming from COVID-19. But we are not going to let that fear overpower us. We can overcome it, and I am convinced that we will overcome it through unity.

Today, Honourable Members, I would like to end my speech, from this podium, by also recognising all the public representatives that have had to go through these terrible weeks from their posts at work, in the arena of direct management.

I am grateful for the work of all the representatives of all the political parties present in this House, in all the regional authorities, in all the bodies, institutions and at all levels of the public administration.

This recognition is sincere, based on gratitude and camaraderie at such critical times, and on profound respect. To all those public servants, I wish to convey my understanding of the errors that may have been made due to the complexity and the drama of the decisions they had to make, at the urgent nature of the measures that had to be taken and at the difficulties in finding essential material resources quickly.

And in the same vein, I would like to apologise to the public for my mistakes, always made as well due to the urgency of the time, to the scarcity of resources, to the exceptional situation and unprecedented nature of the crisis and its colossal scale.

Because, Honourable Members, aside from any specific differences of criteria, aside from statements made under pressure and all the background chatter we often hear, we have had to work side-by-side, all bound by the same desire to save lives, to serve our country in the midst of the most adverse situation we could imagine.

Today, and I state this for the record, Honourable Members, in the minutes of the session, I wish to publicly acknowledge the handling of the situation by each one of them. And I want to do this with the same emphasis as I back the handling of the situation by my government in these critical weeks.

We can never be satisfied in a crisis that includes the loss of human lives - we would be filled with sorrow in taking stock of the situation.

Spain, as I already announced, will declare a period of official mourning when the whole country enters Phase 1 of the de-escalation. And when we reach the new normality, with all the health guarantees, we will hold a much deserved public tribute to the victims of COVID-19.

Honourable Members, we have been subjected to an unimaginable test. We have responded with sacrifice, with unity and with a scent for victory. And we are overcoming this test. Let's acknowledge everything good, everything brave we have done together down this unimaginable path of these last 10 weeks. We must value the agreements we have been capable of reaching, and their beneficial consequences for the whole of Spanish society, above and beyond any differences or errors that frustrated their goal.

Because it will be in this recognition where we will find the strength necessary to rebuild, reactivate and help push our country on now that we can prudently estimate a provisional end to the exceptional time we have been forced to live through for the last 10 weeks.

Honourable Members, we have stopped the virus together. We must now culminate this victory on a united front and undertake, also on a united front, which is what I call for, the social and economic reconstruction of our country.

Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation