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Coronavirus COVID-19

Pedro Sánchez says progress on next stage of fight against COVID-19 will be gradual, safe and coordinated with all public authorities

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Wednesday 22 April 2020

In his speech to the plenary session to request backing for an extension to the State of Emergency, as agreed by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, Pedro Sánchez stressed that this is the third time he is calling for such an extension from the Lower House of Parliament but the first time it is being proposed with a "cautiously optimistic" future scenario in sight. The exemplary discipline shown by the public during the lockdown has enabled the critical period for spreading the virus to be overcome, said the President of the Government. Furthermore, the health system has withstood the onslaught and the number of people recovering from the disease, which currently stands at more than 82,000 people, is another reason for hope.

The President of the Government said that, as a result, it is now possible to design the next scenario - one of de-escalation - but the seriousness of the situation demands caution and gradual, safe action. He went on to say that compliance with the criteria set by the World Health Organisation and the experts must be guaranteed before the general confinement can be lifted: stopping transmission; identifying every infection through testing; controlling the most vulnerable places; avoiding imported contagion; preventing cases at places of work and education; and offering comprehensive information to the public on hygiene rules and social distancing.

Furthermore, Pedro Sánchez explained that, over the coming weeks, with the horizon for the next stage of the fight against the pandemic in the second half of May, the rules and limitations will be gradually adjusted to suit the circumstances while maintaining the premise of protecting the public and the healthcare system. "The de-escalation will be slow and gradual, precisely because it must be safe", he said to the Lower House of Parliament. He said that, following each step forward in liberating mobility and social activity spaces, the resulting effects will need to be examined: if the virus remains under control, another step will be considered; if not, restrictions will be re-imposed.

Controlled outings for children

The President of the Government highlighted two new points in the Royal Decree on extending the State of Emergency.

The first refers to lifting the confinement of children as from 26 April, the date on which the latest extension will begin. Pedro Sánchez explained that, following deliberations by the healthcare authorities and childcare authorities, children will be able to go on supervised walks, for which an Order from the Ministry of Health will be approved, as was announced on Tuesday by the Minister for Health, Salvador Illa.

Congreso de los DiputadosSecondly, the Royal Decree empowers the Minister for Health to amend, broaden or restrict the measures, places, establishments and permitted business, cultural and recreational activities, which Pedro Sánchez described as an "essential legal tool" for advancing through the various stages towards the "new normality".

The President of the Government said that "we are travelling in the right direction" to undertake a process of transition with the utmost coordination between the Government of Spain and social stakeholders - with which he will meet again on Thursday - the regional governments and local authorities. He said that local and provincial councils will play a decisive role in lifting the confinement because the territorial units where this will begin are "very likely" to be smaller than regions as a whole.

Reconstruction agreements without reservations

Pedro Sánchez welcomed the fact that the vast majority of political forces are willing to negotiate a series of government pacts for the social and economic reconstruction of Spain, thereby responding to the overall wishes of Spanish society. He added that an encouraging future and a new way of doing politics based on unity and solidarity, capable of upholding liberty and democracy and not leaving anyone behind will emerge from that dialogue, rising above partisan strategies.

He also said that the culmination of that agreement will be a success shared by everyone contributing to the understanding and that he hopes it can be reached in every region and every local council. "So, 'yes' to the reconstruction agreements with all their consequences. Without reservations; everywhere; in every region; regardless of the governing party. Without excluding anyone except those who exclude themselves and decide to stand on the fringes of the social and economic recovery of our country", he said.

He went on to say that these government pacts should be focused on four issues to facilitate consensus: strengthening the healthcare system; revitalising the economy, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, the self-employed and hardest-hit sectors; social protection measures "to ensure that absolutely nobody is abandoned or left unprotected"; and European affairs.

European Union Recovery Fund

Congreso de los DiputadosPedro Sánchez said that efforts by the European Union will be essential in tackling the crisis, who also reported during his appearance on the European Council meetings held on 20 and 21 February and 26 and 27 March of 2020. The position in favour of a more ambitious, cohesive and environmentally friendly Europe that the Government of Spain stood behind at those summits has revealed itself to be even more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

In this regard, the President of the Government announced that he will defend three main objectives at the European Council to be held on Thursday: promoting the financial package approved by the Eurogroup so that the instruments can be ready no later than 1 June; proposing the creation of a Recovery Fund of up to 1.5 trillion euros funded by perpetual bonds and tied to the EU budget; and reaching an agreement on the next Multi-annual Financial Framework capable of maintaining the allocations to agricultural and cohesion policies and strengthening allocations to other areas, such as scientific research and healthcare systems.

He said that this is a pragmatic, effective and essential proposal that can also be accepted by the most reticent partners given that it requires neither legal amendments nor parliamentary or legal procedures at a national level. "In short, it is an instrument that matches the seriousness of the situation but would demonstrate the real intention of the European Union to act with genuine reach, because we cannot restrict ourselves to simply trying to put out the fire. We must rebuild the house and welcome everyone into it", he said.

Non official translation