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Coronavirus COVID-19

Pedro Sánchez advocates completing the victory over COVID-19 and undertaking social and economic reconstruction on united front

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Wednesday 20 May 2020

In his speech before the plenary session of the Lower House to request the fifth extension of the state of emergency, the President of the Government highlighted that Spain is managing to defeat the virus thanks to the "extreme work of healthcare professionals and the sacrifice of the Spanish people". The number of people cured, stated Pedro Sánchez, is rising while the number of new infections is falling, and 70% of the country is now in Phase 1 of the de-escalation process.

"While we must not drop our guard, we can state that the state of emergency has worked and the De-escalation Plan is working", he declared.

The President of the Government underlined that the results of the first phase of the Seroprevalence Study show that the infection has not affected all parts of the country equally, and that only 5% of Spaniards have developed antibodies, and that the fatality rate stands at around 1%, with higher rates among the elderly and those with underlying conditions. This research, he said, shows that the state of emergency has benefitted both those areas with more people infected and those with less, and that the only path to halt the pandemic is one of caution and safety.

Coordination and institutional loyalty

"We have regained lost ground against the virus, claimed Pedro Sánchez, but it is still out there lurking", and hence we must maintain our prudence and extend the state of emergency, which should govern "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".

The President of the Government stressed the importance of preventing a possible second wave, of continuing to heed the advice of the experts and of acting in a coordinated fashion in each phase of the de-escalation, with collaboration, solidarity and institutional loyalty. The Plan for the Transition to a New Normality, he added, is asymmetrical, gradual and progressive, yet the exit cannot be disorderly. "We will exit at different speeds, but we will exit united", he emphasised.

Under the new extension, he explained, the only delegate government authority will be the Minister for Health who, advised by departmental technicians and in coordination with the regional authorities, will set the different paces and forms of the de-escalation. The regional governments, which have always maintained their full capacity to manage their own jurisdictions, will gradually play a greater role, particularly as regards primary care, stated the President of the Government.

Legal reforms to manage tracking of pandemic

Congreso de los DiputadosPedro Sánchez underlined that the state of emergency is "fully legal" and cannot be replaced by a set of ordinary laws at a time of emergency like the present.

The government, he added, is analysing which laws must be amended to guarantee an orderly exit from the state of emergency, including the 2011 General Public Health Act and the 2015 National Security Act. These reforms, should they prove necessary, will be very specific and with the sole aim of managing the tracking of the pandemic once the state of emergency is lifted.

The President of the Government expressed his conviction that a very broad political consensus exists on the need to gradually and securely re-establish the full right to free movement and assembly, as well as the unrestricted opening of stores, offices and companies. He also stated that the state of emergency has been "absolutely respectful" of individual rights and is compatible with the "institutional de-escalation" and with the joint work with the regional presidents, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces and social stakeholders.

Recover viable projects and jobs

Pedro Sánchez argued that Spain is increasingly closer to recovering "its full vitality", but highlighted the "terrible economic consequences" of the pandemic, which is more seriously affecting those people in the most insecure situations and those that engage in activities with a higher exposure to social contact.

Since the start of the crisis, he stated, the government has continually approved measures with the sole aim of not leaving anyone behind", such as the line of State guarantees for loans through the Official Credit Institute (Spanish acronym: ICO), the extension of the deadline for the presentation of the quarterly VAT return, the guarantee of basic supplies for families in vulnerable situations, the automatic extension of unemployment benefits, recoverable paid leave and the special non-repayable fund for regional governments, among others. The President of the Government also referred to theAgreement to protect jobs - an example of "the social stakeholders rising to the circumstances" and the commitment to implement the Minimum Living Income as soon as possible.

The President of the Government claimed that "helping those in need is essential, but not enough" and advocated "helping those with viable projects that have been interrupted to get a footing", and "reincorporating those who can work as soon as possible". This must be one of the goals of the National Social and Economic Reconstruction Agreement, said Pedro Sánchez, who also advocated steering activity towards a new productive model that is committed to research, education, the ecological transition, the digital transition and human capital.

Ambitious proposal to reactivate Europe

Another key element to advance the recovery is Europe, underlined the President of the Government. European solidarity, he stated, is one of the best tools for combating the coronavirus, but also "for fighting for the idea of the Europe we believe in".

Congreso de los DiputadosAmong the measures adopted by the European Union, Pedro Sánchez highlighted the enhanced flexibility of the public deficit criteria, the programme to purchase public debt launched by the European Central Bank, the unconditional lines of liquidity validated by the European Council on 23 April and the European Commission's roadmap for a coordinated de-escalation.

Pedro Sánchez also described the joint initiative by France and Germany that includes the creation of a minimum fund of 500 billion euros in transfers to those countries and sectors hardest hit by the crisis as positive. The government, he announced, hopes that the European Commission will make an "ambitious proposal" in the coming days, that will serve as the basis for an agreement with which to undertake the economic and social reactivation of Europe.

Recognition of public representatives

Both at a national and a European level, unity is the "most powerful force" for saving lives in the health crisis and for saving jobs and companies in the economic and social crisis, declared the President of the Government. "We have halted the virus together, we must now complete this victory with unity and also undertake the social and economic reconstruction of Spain with unity", he argued.

The President of the Government expressed his recognition of the professionals and volunteers that have fought the pandemic, as well as the public representatives in all territories, bodies, institutions and levels of the public administration, to whom he conveyed his understanding of the mistakes that may have been made given the complexity and urgency of the situation. The President of the Government apologised to the Spanish people for "his mistakes" in response to the exceptional nature and extent of the crisis, "with the same emphasis" as he backed the government's management of the situation over these last few weeks.

"There can be no satisfaction possible in response to a crisis that leads to the loss of human beings", said Pedro Sánchez, who reiterated that he will declare an official period of mourning when the whole country is in Phase 1 of the de-escalation, and a public tribute will be made to the victims when the adequate safety conditions prevail.

Non official translation