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Press briefing by President of the Government of Spain following Council of Ministers

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Tuesday 6 April 2021

I would like to thank the media very much. Good day to all of you, welcome to Moncloa Palace, to the press room, together with the photographers attending this press briefing.

I wanted to begin by recalling something obvious but which I felt was important, which is that just over a year ago the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 constituted a global pandemic. And during this time, we have witnessed a great many things, and what is fundamental is that science has managed to isolate the virus, sequence its genome, create several effective vaccines and produce them in large quantities.

This has meant that almost four-fifths of those over the age of 80 (79.1%) in our country have now received at least the first dose, and 44% have received the second dose - what is being called the full dose.

It also means that almost all of the 405,179 people who are resident in care homes for the elderly or for those with disabilities (98%) have received at least the first dose and 90% of them have received the full dose. In other words, both doses.

We are thus, as I have said on other occasions, at the beginning of the end of this pandemic. We are at the beginning of the end of this pandemic and we should also remember how right Pío Baroja was when he said that "science is the only powerful creation of Mankind".

Science not only removes the hurdles in our way but also harnesses them perfectly. And we find ourselves in one of those times. The hurdle, as we know, is huge, as it was at the start of the pandemic, but the solution will be even bigger and Spain, consequently, like Europe, has a horizon for overcoming it.

You will remember that I have consistently claimed, as has the Government of Spain, that we will only be able to recover full normality thanks to vaccination. And we have started to do this.

The job market, it is true, is reacting positively to the lifting of restrictions on activity in this month of March, following the slowdown in employment we observed in January and February in the midst of the third wave and also thanks to the vaccination process. It is true that we are still far off optimum figures showing normal economic activity, but we are slowly making progress and we have seen that today in the employment figures: National Insurance contributor numbers are up 70,790 on February to stand at a total of 18,920,902.

Secondly, recorded unemployment has fallen at the fastest rate in a month of March since 2015, posting a drop of 59,149 people and falling below the threshold of 4 million people again. The return to work of workers on a Temporary Lay-off Plan (Spanish acronym: ERTE) has speeded up on the last day of March compared with the last day of February. There are now 114,000 more people who have gone back to work, a figure that rises to 145,000 workers when taking into account the average for the month. Hence in terms of effective contributor numbers, that is, discounting ERTEs, the number of workers has increased by more than 200,000 people this month. So, while we are still a long way from total recovery of our economic activity, and thus from the full potential and knock-on effect of job creation, we are slowly seeing the effects of this reactivation.

We are also seeing this in the figures that have been updated by the IMF, raising the forecast for global growth for 2021 and 2022, mainly due to the fiscal stimulus from the United States, and also, of course, from the vaccination process, which has speeded up in recent weeks. In the case of our country, of Spain, the forecasts from this international body are for an improvement in 2021, also in the Eurozone, with forecast growth of 6.4% in Spain, in other words, half a point higher than in January.

This 6.4% of economic growth places our country as the developed economy that will enjoy most growth in 2021 together with the United States, and clearly the support approved just a few weeks ago by the Council of Ministers, together with the ERTEs and the Recovery Fund, which I will not only have the chance to approve at the Council of Ministers next week, but also to appear before Parliament to explain and to specifically set out the fine details of this Recovery Fund, will also have a knock-on effect to allow this economic recovery to be bedded down over the course of this year.

At any event, what is clear is that vaccination is the most effective economic policy. We are talking about the largest global vaccination process ever, in the history of Mankind. And I could say the same about our country. Since the start of the year, an unprecedented effort has been made by the health authorities, which I want to underline and also applaud: regional coordinators, primary care centres, hospitals, vaccination centres, nurses and citizens and in this second quarter, what I also want to convey is that this vaccination process, as I have already said, will be significantly stepped up.

I want to be very clear on this issue; in this second quarter we will see the vaccination process speeded up, particularly as from this second quarter of the year. Progress will be significant. We will thus join all our forces to tirelessly vaccinate.

The speed and efficacy of vaccination is the main concern of the Government of Spain at this time. Each person vaccinated is someone protected from the serious effects of the disease caused by COVID-19, and thus represents another life saved. In turn, mass vaccination is the quickest path to reactivate our country from an economic perspective and also in terms of job creation.

The vaccination process is also teaching us some very important lessons, which I wish to underline, for our society. The first of these is the preparation and commitment of our healthcare workers. And also the open disposition of people of all ages to receiving the vaccine, along with the coordination between the Government of Spain and the regional authorities, which is working at full speed.

Just look, since November 2020, the Ministry of Health has headed up the preparations for the vaccination campaign with more than 120 meetings with the regional governments, with their coordinators, and also, logically, with the Ministry of Defence, which is contributing through considerable logistical support, which I would like to underline once more, as we have seen in our country in recent days in the supply of the doses of the vaccine.

And also the Group for the Integral Management of the COVID-19 Vaccination, coordinated by the State Secretariat for Health and the Secretariat General for Digital Health, through the design of the necessary processes for the administration of the vaccines, the planning, the supplies, the stocks, the monitoring, the logistics, the information systems, the registers, the tactical models to help the regional authorities comply with their vaccination targets.

And thanks to this joint work and, despite the complexity and urgency of the vaccination process, Spain now stands among the European Union (EU) countries with the fastest rollout of the vaccination and heads up the list of those countries with the largest populations, such as Germany, France, Poland and Italy

Some figures to substantiate this: at today's date, Spain has vaccination coverage, with at least one dose, of those over the age of 80 of 79.1%, as I said at the start of my speech. The average for the 25 European Union countries is 60%, so 79.1% in Spain versus 60% in the EU. And 26% for the full dose in the EU compared with 44.2% in Spain for this age bracket. In other words, the vaccination rate in Spain, in general terms, is very positive compared with the general situation in Europe. And I wish to announce that the vaccination rate will be speeded up in this month of April and each month it will be rolled out quicker than the previous month. We will develop this programme at a faster rate and comply with the target we have set of 70 of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Hence, I can communicate to you that working on the most prudent and conservative scenario, we will achieve the following milestones: the first will be next week, when we will see more people vaccinated with the full dose, that is, with two doses, than the number of people who have registered their infection. Secondly, by the week of 3 May, 5 million fellow countrymen will have received the full dose of the vaccination. By the first week of June, we propose to have vaccinated 10 million Spaniards. By the week of 14 June, we will have achieved the vaccination of 15 million people and I can announce to you that by the week of 19 July, we want to see 25 million of our fellow countrymen vaccinated. We will thus achieve 70% of the adult population immunised, that is, 33 million Spanish men and women, thanks to the vaccine, by the end of the month of August.

I want to remind you of these targets because I feel they are very important. Firstly, by next week, more people will be vaccinated in Spain with the full dose than the number of people who have notified their infection. Secondly, by the week of 3 May, 5 million fellow countrymen will have received the full dose of the vaccination. By the first week of June, we propose to have vaccinated 10 million Spaniards with the full dose. By the week of 14 June, we will have achieved the vaccination of 15 million people and by the week of 19 July, we want to see 25 million of our fellow countrymen vaccinated with the full dose, that is, we want to achieve, and we will achieve, 70% of the adult population immunised with the full dose, that is, 33 million Spanish men and women, by the end of the month of August.

I repeat, this is a prudent forecast, a more conservative forecast, which is logically right to make, in a tremendously complex process, as we announced at the start of vaccination.

As you are aware, since the vaccination process began 100 days ago, vaccinations have been performed as and when the doses of the vaccines become available. There have been some delays in the deadline, which have primarily be down to the delays in the deliveries of the doses by some pharmaceutical companies, because between 75% and 95% of the vaccines delivered each week have been, as you know, administered by the regional governments, that is, the authorities with jurisdiction in this matter.

And I would like to once again underline this, because it is not just clear but also a source of pride, above all due to the professionalism and dedication and commitment of our health professionals. Our health system has a weekly administration capacity in excess of 3.5 million doses. I repeat, our health system has a weekly administration capacity in excess of 3.5 million doses

As you know, the vaccination order has been decided upon according to ethical criteria, based on scientific evidence. We have begun with the most vulnerable people, logically, with the highest risk of mortality from serious disease, as well as the exposure and transmission to other people, and we will continue with the groups that play an essential function for society. And with a view to the delivery of a high number of doses in this second quarter of 2021, the following groups to be vaccinated are established according to age and also to the type of vaccine available and appropriate for each age group, which will also include people with certain conditions other than age who are at greater risk if they are infected by COVID-19.

At this time, as you are aware, the European Commission… because it is very important to highlight this. This is one of the main successes of the European Union - that we have acted on a united front. No-one has acted alone. We have acted united. The European Commission has authorised four vaccines through the EMA. The first, as you know, was Pfizer/BioNTech, authorised on 21 December 2020. The second was the Moderna vaccine, authorised on 6 January 2021. The third was the AstraZeneca vaccine, authorised on 29 January 2021, and finally the Janssen vaccine, authorised on 11 March 2021 which, unlike the others, only requires one dose.

The four vaccines have shown different levels of efficacy and safety, which I wish to make very clear for the tranquillity and peace of mind of the Spanish people. All four vaccines are undoubtedly safe. For the time being, the first three are available in Spain, in other words, the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, and between April and June some 38 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, and also the Janssen vaccine, are due to be delivered to Spain. This means receiving, to give you an idea of the change we are going to see over this second quarter compared with the first quarter, 3.5 times more doses of vaccine than in the first quarter. I repeat, 3.5 times more doses of vaccine than in the first quarter. As regards the Janssen vaccine, which is an important vaccine because it only requires a single dose and hence will help speed up the vaccination process in our country, we will start to receive it as of 14 April and we will receive 5.7 million doses before June

Furthermore, at this time, there is another vaccine pending authorisation, which is the German vaccine CureVac which, once authorised, and adding its doses to the rest of the vaccine between July and September, in the third quarter, we expect to receive 48 million doses in Spain. I repeat, together with CureVac and the other three vaccines that are authorised and that we are obviously already receiving, and together with Janssen, we will receive 48 million doses in the third quarter of the year. Hence, I can announce to you that, in total, we have contracted the supply of more than 87 million doses to be received between the months of April and September. I repeat, 87 million doses to be received between the months of April and September, What will that allow us to do? It will allow us to ensure that any of our countrymen who wish can be vaccinated in this period.

For the time being, our absolute priority, as you can imagine, is to continue finalising the vaccination of the people who are most vulnerable to this disease, which are the elderly, especially those over the age of 80. We expect to complete the administration of the first dose this week, between 5 and 11 April, in almost all of the autonomous regions, and the second dose in the first fortnight of May. On that date, I believe that we will all have the peace of mind of knowing that all our over eighties are safe. And the following group to be fully vaccinated will be those aged from 70 to 79 - the vaccination process of which has already started in some autonomous regions - who will be vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen vaccine, while those patients with very high risk conditions, such as those who have undergone a transplant, certain cancer patients, patients undergoing haemodialysis or with Down's Syndrome aged over 40, and then those people aged 66 to 69.

As regards the AstraZeneca vaccine, I would like to say, in addition to concluding the vaccination of those groups indicated as essential, this has begun to be supplied to most regions to those people aged from 55 to 65. And I wish to also highlight the work of the pharmaceutical companies which are manufacturing and/or bottling vaccines in our country to be supplied all around the world. Rovi, for example, through the Moderna vaccine, which I had the chance to visit a few months ago; Universal Farma, part of the Insud Pharma group, involved in the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the company Reig Jofre in the bottling of and conditioning of the Janssen vaccine.

And also in regard to the vaccines that are currently being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency, such as the Zendal group with Novavax and of course the scientific research groups that, both under the CSIC and under other scientific institutions, are working to obtain, sooner rather than later, this Spanish vaccine that we all eagerly await.

Vaccination, as I said, has a twofold purpose: on the one hand, to protect public health, to protect the lives of people from this terrible disease and, on the other hand, to recovery our mobility as soon as possible.

The Ministry of Health has also, as you know, together with the regional authorities, set up the first National Vaccination Register - REGVACU. This register is the basis for the Digital Green Certificate being pushed through by the European Union, which will ensure greater mobility with guarantees throughout the country and the European Union. We hope that this certificate will be ready by mid-June. The Ministry of Health and the Government of Spain are working to this end, together with the other ministerial departments involved, such as the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.

This is a project, as I am sure you can imagine, that is complex, which could include such details as the accreditation that someone has been vaccinated against COVID-19, the negative result of a PCR test, an antigen test and evidence that this person has recovered from the disease and thus has antibodies to protect them from it.

I am well aware of this. I would firstly like to say that this green passport will help us recover mobility gradually within the European Union, while protecting the health of all our citizens. The green passport, and I also want to assure you of this, like everything that the Government of Spain has done, as well as all European governments under the leadership of the European Commission, will be free of charge and of universal access, as is access to the vaccine equally available.

As I just said, I am well aware that the pandemic is the toughest test in the last few generations of our fellow countrymen. I know that society is fed up with this, but I would urge you to look back. Look back a year and you will see that in this same press room, at the toughest times of the lockdown, we were wondering how long this pandemic would last. Let's address this pandemic in historical terms. The last great pandemic Mankind suffered from took place a little over a century ago. It lasted for several years and eventually went away with the passing of time, but science never found a cure for it. Whereas we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We are increasingly closer to definitively banishing a disease that gave us such a terrible shock a little over a year ago. So, there is now just a short time to go, much less than we might have imagined at the toughest and darkest hours of the lockdown and at the start of this tragedy, this calamity. But we must carry on protecting ourselves and that is what I would also like to pass on to all our fellow countrymen. We must not drop our guard. We cannot do that just yet. We cannot let ourselves relax yet. So, I would ask for one last effort. I understand the fatigue. I understand the impatience. But I would ask all of you to act with the utmost responsibility. I would ask you to think of the lives that are still being lost every day, of the people that are still at risk of infection, of our elderly folk who are still unprotected, of the most vulnerable people, of the threat that still weighs, above all, even on the healthiest people, and even on our youngest people.

So, time is passing to definitively leave behind this dark and painful era in our lives. And among all the priorities, have no doubts that the priority at this time, now more than ever, is to speed up the rate of delivery of the doses and hence of the vaccination process, which we must undertake tirelessly. We must vaccinate to save lives, vaccinate to recover our economy, vaccinate to recover our social lives. In short, vaccinate much more intensely as of the second quarter of the year.

And now, State secretary, I will take questions from the media, but not without first thanking them for their presence here.

QUESTIONS

Q: May Mariño (Servimedia): Good afternoon, President of the Government. I wanted to ask you about this issue; you have told us a lot about the vaccination process and of how we are at the end of the tunnel. Could you tell us if you now definitively rule out an extension to the state of emergency, taking into account that there is about a month to go under the present one?

And I wanted to ask you about another matter; whether you could give us some more details about the Housing Act. And as to whether there will be any limitations on maximum rental prices. Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Thank you very much May for your questions. As regards the first of them, I firstly want to highlight the governance and the joint decision-making system that we have designed and which is at the heart of the state of emergency and of the response to COVID-19 since the second wave and, in particular, in this third wave, and which we will see in this fourth wave, if finally it comes to pass.

I believe that this governance is the express recognition of Title Eight [of the Constitution], regarding the jurisdiction that each of the regional governments has on health, to quote an example, but also on education, on dependency, on care in homes for the elderly, and hence also in the rollout of the vaccination process.

What I can tell you is that the aim of the Government of Spain is that once we reach the deadline of 9 May, and hence of the end of the state of emergency, it will no longer prove necessary to extend it. And hence, continue with this system and mechanism of governance, whereby the Ministry of Health and the regional health councillors are represented on the Inter-territorial Council, and continue responding to any type of spike in our country, and of course also continue with the vaccination process we are immersed in.

So, what we want is for 9 May to be an end point of the state of emergency. That is our aim, that is our goal and we are working to that end.

And as regards your second question, look, we are in the negotiation stage at the moment. I believe it will be important; it will be the first Housing Act in our country during the democracy, for over 40 years of democracy. And I also feel that the approach is right. The approach is not to look at housing as a commodity but as a right, a right that is recognised in our Constitution. And to undertake this not just from a rental perspective, but also from a property perspective, through the construction of public housing, which is one of the main deficits our country suffers from.

In other words, to complete a whole complex reality in regard to the housing policy and streamline it and frame it in a single law. We are currently in the negotiation stage and I can tell you that I have no doubt that we will reach a coalition government agreement and that we will then have to hope that sooner rather than later, we will see the first Housing Act put before Parliament, which is so necessary in our country, above all for young people suffering from a very serious problem of emancipation, which has been further exacerbated by the pandemic in recent months.

Q: Ana Fernández Vila (Europa Press): Hello, good afternoon, how are you? First of all, I wanted to ask you about this possibility of the state of emergency ending on 9 May. I wanted to know if you believe that the Inter-territorial Council could, should the case arise and if necessary, take measures that restrict mobility or if you believe that it will not be necessary to take this type of decision.

And then, I wanted to know if you plan to undertake any type of action and whether you will reproach the Regional Government of Madrid for exploring, on its own, the purchase of the Russian vaccine or for exploring the possibility of the Russian vaccine.

And then, on another note, I wanted to know how you will comply with the government pact with Esquerra Republicana on fiscal harmonisation, despite the PSOE candidate in the regional elections in Madrid announcing that he has no intention of raising taxes in that region. Thank you.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Ana for your questions. As regards your first question on the state of emergency and the Inter-territorial Council, you will also have borne witness to the different parliamentary groups planning to make claims and lodge appeals in the courts before the judiciary. And the courts have also declared that they are being careful in this regard. And what they have said is that all those decisions taken by the Inter-territorial Council are mandatory and must be complied with.

Hence, I feel that the courts and the judiciary are giving a response whereby the Inter-territorial Council and all the agreements framed within its jurisdiction will be validated by the system of justice.

But at any event, the state of emergency, as you rightly said, principally proposes two key instruments. One of these is closing the borders between regions, provinces and even total lockdowns and the restriction on movement at night-time, the wrongly labelled 'curfew'. I know I lost that battle, so let's call it a curfew.

I don't think we can hope that the epidemiological reality and the vaccination process which, as I said, will be speeded up a great deal over the coming months such that we can reach this 70% before the end of the summer; in other words, 33 million people, 33 million fellow countrymen vaccinated and thus immunised, will give us enough instruments, sufficient instruments - I am referring to this Inter-territorial Policy Council in the field of health - to continue responding effectively to this pandemic.

As regards your second question, let's see, I believe that when we speak about vaccination we are speaking, in short, about the pandemic and the fight against the pandemic, and hence we are talking about something extremely serious. And thus, I feel that everyone, all governments - whether regional, the Government of Spain or any European government, must be responsible, must be serious, must be loyal and must also be supportive and show solidarity.

I feel that one of the main successes of the European strategy has been that we operate on a united front, that we have centralised the purchase of these vaccines through the European Commission and that this has been negotiated on behalf of more than 400 million people. More than 400 million people.

Hence, the only thing I ask is for is this responsibility from all institutions, from all public authorities; this loyalty, this solidarity and clearly also this seriousness when we talk about the vaccine.

This vaccine, as you know - the Sputnik vaccine - is a vaccine that is currently undergoing a validation process by the European Medicines Agency, and hence, because we also want to guarantee the utmost safety in the vaccination of our fellow countrymen, we are logically only supplying those doses that have been validated, stamped - so that all our countrymen who are watching this press briefing can understand - by the EMA. And that is what the Government of Spain has done. That is what governments throughout Europe are doing, headed up by the European Commission.

And as regards your last question, I believe that the candidate [Ángel] Gabilondo has been very clear on this. I believe candidate Gabilondo, if you will allow me, since you are asking me about Madrid, although he is here in this press room, when he says that the elections in Madrid have come too early. This is a regional government for two years. And indeed, proposing an exceptional regional government, with exceptional measures for an exceptional situation has not led to an opposition in this case, but has led to a breakdown of a coalition government in the Region of Madrid.

Q. Carina Verdú (Antena 3). Good day. I wanted to ask you precisely about the European Medicines Agency, which has given its opinion about the AstraZeneca vaccine and these blood clots; it considers that there is a relationship between the vaccine and these consequences.

I wanted to know whether Spain plans to halt the administration of the doses of AstraZeneca or whether it plans to carry on with it as it has thus far. Thank you.

President of the Government:Thank you Carina, because this is indeed a concern that people have in Europe, as does the EMA, all European governments and also the Government of Spain, and you can obviously imagine that we are watching closely and monitoring all these questions.

Let me present you with a nuance. I don't believe that the EMA has given its official opinion on this matter. There has been news that some advisors have given their opinion on this matter. I feel that it is important to say, first of all, that all the vaccines currently being supplied in Europe have been validated by the EMA, they have been certified and hence we must also convey this message of safety to the whole Spanish population. I feel that, as I said before, this vaccination process that we have started, which is the most extraordinarily complex and global process ever undertaken in the history of Mankind over these last 100 years, is teaching our country some very positive lessons.

You will remember how before the start of this vaccination process, more than 40% of the Spanish people, we were told in surveys, had their doubts about whether to receive the vaccine or not. The question now is the opposite. The question is, when will I be vaccinated? Fortunately, in this second quarter, at least that is our plan, we will be able to take this leap in stepping up vaccination in our country to reach 70%, or 33 million of our fellow countrymen vaccinated before the end of the summer. And hence, I would like to pass on this message of safety, this confidence in the vaccination processes that are being rolled out throughout Europe, as they have the utmost guarantees.

That is why, returning to your question, I believe that it is very important to act with rigour, with calm, with institutional loyalty in the awareness that the success of the vaccination process in our country is closely related to a decision taken by all the European people. And that is placing the European Commission at the vanguard in centralised purchasing, as the government that represents all the European people.

Q. Alba Galán (TVE). Good day, President of the Government. I wanted to come back to the question from my colleague earlier about the Regional Government of Madrid, which has been negotiating the purchase of the Sputnik vaccine. You have asked for loyalty and seriousness. Do you feel that the Regional Government of Madrid has been disloyal? Have its actions not been serious?

President of the Government: Thank you Alba for your question. Look, I feel that since the outbreak of the pandemic I have followed a maxim of non-confrontation, anti-controversy and the conveyance of a message that I believe is very important - one of unity, of calm and of certainty in the fight against the pandemic.

Now more than ever, since we are now, as I said at the start of my speech, at the beginning of the end. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, both in Spain and in Europe, with a vaccination process that will be speeded up over the course of this second quarter, as I said before, with a rise of 3.5 times in the number of doses supplied compared with the first quarter, which I feel is what is important.

What is important is to pass on to all our people the fact that we are meeting our targets, although the vaccination process is very complex, as we are seeing, given the characteristics of the vaccines and also the failures in the delivery of the doses by one specific pharmaceutical company, which is AstraZeneca.

Aside from that, I repeat, what is important is to act with rigour and seriousness, to act with loyalty and with solidarity and for us to be aware that if Spain has vaccines today, and if each and every European country has sufficient vaccines to be able to vaccinate 70% of our population before the end of the month of August, it is because we have acted on a united front. Unity is fundamental in the fight against the pandemic and also in the supply of the doses.

Q: Juande Portillo (Cinco Días). I had several questions. On the one hand, I wanted to ask you about the forecasts updated by the IMF which show, as you have announced, estimated growth of 6.4% for Spain this year. However, the government's forecast still maintains this at 9.8%, thanks to the European funds. I would like to know whether the government is willing to drop its forecasts to bring them in line with those of the IMF.

Secondly, I wanted to ask you about the projects financed with European support. Do you have a start date yet or a calendar for when we can start to see these projects get under way, taking into account that the Budget which has been approved allows for this money to be anticipated before the disbursement of the European funds?

And then I wanted to ask you: the Secretary [of the Treasury], Janet Yellen, of Biden's US Administration announced her intention yesterday of enacting a minimum corporate income tax rate at a global level. The Government of Spain has already proposed pushing through a minimum rate in Spain of 15%. I would like to know whether the government is willing to resume this idea it had with a horizon of 2022 for imposing a minimum corporate income tax and whether it will support the possibility of establishing this at an international level, taking into account that we are talking about a figure of around 28%, compared with 25% of (unintelligible) in Spain or the minimum rate of 15% that you had proposed.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Juande for your questions. I believe that in response to your first question, the economic forecasts from the International Monetary Fund and also from the Government of Spain yesterday - from the Second Vice-President of the Government and Minister for Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, made this clear. I seem to remember that in an interview for National Radio of Spain. It is true that the third wave has had a considerable impact on economic activity in our country in these first two months of the year, but not in the third - that is not the case in the month of March - where we have seen a speed-up that is absolutely in line with the measures and hence, the restrictions, being relaxed, and consequently, on economic activation and reactivation. But clearly we have had two very bad months, two particularly bad months as regards economic activity and job creation, not just due to the third wave, but also due to Storm Filomena. Anyway, the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the coming days will also convey the updates to these economic forecasts. And consequently, the scenario presented by the International Monetary Fund, and even the scenario presented by the Bank of Spain in its forecasts, show Spain as one of the main developed economies that will enjoy the most growth over the course of 2021, and in 2022. And it is true that this is closely related as well to our capacity to rebound after a double digit fall in economic activity in 2020. In other words, this will be insufficient. We will need more time to recover the levels of GDP we enjoyed before the pandemic.

But clearly, I feel that the speed-up of the vaccination process, the support we have approved over these long months of the pandemic, the latest example just a few weeks ago to help those sectors worst affected by ERTEs and also the Recovery Fund, will show a much more consolidated horizon of recovery in the coming weeks.

In this regard, I want to say to you that some of the projects tied into the Recovery Fund have already been set in motion. I would like to remind you that two weeks ago, if my memory doesn't fail me, we approved at a Council of Ministers a 600-million euro item, precisely related to territorial cohesion, to water treatment and other fundamental aspects in many areas of our country.

And as regards the proposal made by the US Secretary of the Treasury, well, what do you want me to say? Of course I feel very pleased that this type of debate is opened up, which is fundamental at a global level for us to address two key elements: one of them related to a minimum rate of corporate income tax; and the other, let's say, the tax on all these large digital platforms we have been seeing in recent months, above all as a result of the pandemic, which have raised their stock market capitalisation significantly, but which compete on an uneven playing field compared with other corporations or companies. Well, they should pay their taxes.

So, I feel that these are two very important debates that must be fuelled. And that is what Spain has been working on through the OECD, at a multilateral level, and also through the G-20, and of course at a European level, within the scope of the internal market. As you are well aware, there are some countries that have a corporate income tax rate that is well below ours in Spain, and hence there is competition that must be corrected, that is, the debate on fiscal harmonisation at an EU level and also at a global level is a progressive debate and I am pleased that the United States has embraced this progressive agenda on economic policy, which the Government of Spain has been advocating for some time now.

Q. Pilar Santos (El Periódico). Good day, President of the Government. Thank you. You have given us some statistics on the percentages of people vaccinated in Spain and also in comparison with other European partners, but the truth is that compared with countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, we come out badly, both Spain and the European Union. I wanted to ask you, where do you think Brussels has come up short in negotiating the purchase of vaccines? Aside from the fact that centralised purchasing seems to have been a good idea, what has gone wrong for the vaccination rate to be much higher in other countries outside of the European Union.

And then, as regards Coronel Diego Pérez de los Cobos, after seeing the ruling from the National High Court, do you feel the decision to let him go was the right one? Thank you.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Pilar. As regards your second question, I can only say that the Minister of Home Affairs has my full trust and confidence.

And as regards the work of the former, and the questions you raised about statistics and the comparison of the vaccination rate in Europe compared with the United States, I will state several things.

Firstly, I defend the vaccination strategy in Europe and if the vaccination rate in Europe is slower than in other countries, then there are reasons why this is the case. I believe that one company has not complied with the delivery of doses set and committed to over the course of the second quarter of the year, which is AstraZeneca. Hence, I feel it is important to make things clear on this matter, and secondly, I back the purchase policy that Spain has adopted, unlike other European countries. We have an absolutely diversified vaccination portfolio. There are countries that have opted to commit practically all the vaccines to their country of the doses that are going to be supplied by a single company. We have arranged the purchase of each and every vaccine that is currently validated and certified by the EMA, whether Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen or AstraZeneca, or others in the future, such as CureVac, Novavax and any others that may be validated.

So, I feel that it is also very important to be aware that, despite AstraZeneca not having complied with its part, the rate of doses supplied to the whole of Europe, and thus to Spain, has not been felt as it has in other countries thanks to a diversified public policy that has allowed us to have a much more, let's say, heterogeneous vaccine portfolio that is richer, and hence, this supply has not had such a serious impact as it unfortunately has in other countries.

Q. (El Confidencial) Hello, good afternoon. Today has been the first Council of Ministers with Minister Yolanda Díaz as Third Vice-President of the Government. I don't know whether you have recently had the chance to look a little at her work agenda, with the labour reform and put a date on this, if you have been able to shore this up and also, at a level of political coordination with your partner, if there is any type of reshaping of both dialogue and as regards the calendar and the establishment of scheduled priorities and any kind of change compared with now. Thank you very much.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Iván. I will not tire of stating that this is the first time ever that we have had four women as Vice-President of the Government. And two from Galicia, by the way, Yolanda Díaz and Nadia Calviño, if you will allow me that. But, at any event, what is important is that the announcement that I made in my opening speech is that the Council of Ministers will approve the Recovery Fund next Tuesday. This Recovery Fund will be the subject of debate as a result of my appearance in Parliament the following day, on 14 April. We will also be held accountable there for the commitment I took on to approve the state of emergency regarding the evolution of the pandemic before the end of the state of emergency on 9 May. And hence, that will be the day when we see the Recovery Fund and some of its details and the whole matter at the end of April, and moreover, we will be one of the first European countries to present all the details of the Recovery Fund to the European Commission. And there you will obviously be able to see the schedule for all of the reforms, all of the transformations that lie ahead of the Government of Spain, including on labour matters.

And as regards coordination, well, in short, I believe that this is absolutely transparent in the sense that there is a signed commitment on coordination by the two political formations that make up this Council of Ministers - the Socialist Party and Unidas Podemos - and hence, I would refer you to these frameworks of collaboration between political parties and of course to the delegate committees which, by the way, were also approved today at the Council of Ministers, and their restructuring as regards coordination between the ministerial departments.

Q. (Diario ARA). Hello, Mariona Ferrer from Diario Ara. Firstly, I wanted to specifically ask you about a reform that has been a long time waiting in the Lower House, which is the modification of the Official Secrets Act from the Franco regime. Does the government plan to reject the proposal made by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and undertake to present its own reform during this term of office, and if that is the case, why push through a draft bill and not a proposal that was taken into consideration some time back?

And secondly, as regards the situation in Catalonia and the problems in forming a regional government. Firstly how do you see the possibility of holding fresh elections if the ERC and Junts cannot reach an agreement? And secondly, if there is a series of proposals that have not yet been approved by the government, such as the reform of the criminal offence of sedition, and the processing of pardons, as well as the meeting of the Dialogue Board, do you expect the government to end the interim situation in Catalonia to take on these decisions? Thank you.

President of the Government: Thank you very much Mariola for your questions. As regards the first, I think that the Government of Spain will present its own Official Secrets Act, which is also closely tied in, as you know, to the passage through Parliament of a very important law for our government, which is the Democratic Memory Act. So, we will present our own draft Official Secrets Act, which I also feel will be good for the quality of our democracy in everything related to transparency in the field of Spanish democracy, which is also a broad public demand, not necessarily from the political formations, but from many historians in our country.

And as regards your second question related to Catalonia, look, I honestly believe that Catalonia, like any other region, should not hold fresh elections at this time. I feel that the task now falls to politicians to reach a parliamentary majority that leads to the formation of the most stable regional government possible for Catalonia that focuses on the things that are important for all the men and women of Catalonia, and also for the Spanish people as a whole, such as vaccination, the economic recovery and social protection.

In relation to all the matters that you have mentioned about the reform of the Criminal Code, about the meeting of the Dialogue Board between the two tiers of government, obviously until such time as a regional government is formed, it will be difficult to meet but obviously the position and interest of the Government of Spain is that as soon as the Regional Government of Catalonia is formed, we will be able to meet up and resume dialogue.

And as regards the processing of pardons, it is not that a decision has been taken or not, but rather that this is being processed at this time and hence I feel that it is very important to respect the timeframes set by the rule of law and, obviously, the reports from the State Legal Council, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Court of Auditors are all mandatory, and it now falls to the Supreme Court to rule prior to the Ministry of Justice proposing the cases and bringing them before the Council of Ministers.

Thank you very much.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation