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Appearance before plenary session of Lower House

Pedro Sánchez stresses that 2021 will mark end of health emergency and start of recovery

Lower House of Parliament, Madrid, Wednesday 24 February 2021

The President of the Government stressed that the pandemic situation remains "serious", particularly in some regions, but the rate of contagion is dropping thanks to the measures adopted. Spain currently has a cumulative incidence rate of 236 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a fall of 62% in the last 14 days. The latest mortality figure is 68,079.

The figures, he argued, show that the state of emergency and co-governance with the regional governments work and provide a range of actions that are sufficient to flatten the curve. "But they need to be activated and maintained", argued Pedro Sánchez in his appearance before the plenary session of the Lower House to report on the government's handling of COVID-19, in compliance with the Royal Decree extending the state of emergency until midnight on 9 May 2021.

The President of the Government stated that "we are now all aware" that the de-escalation after the first wave took place too quickly, "precipitated by the need to reactivate the economy and alleviate emotional fatigue", and also that "we should not have dropped our guard" during the Christmas holidays. Prudence is thus a "civic and political duty" that must be maintained despite the start of the vaccination campaign. "We must all take on-board the challenge of avoiding a fourth wave".

The government, he added, will continue to adopt all the restrictive measures necessary, as it did on 17 February by establishing the obligation on travellers arriving from Brazilian and South African airports to self-isolate for 10 days upon their arrival in Spain. "We must continue working on a united front to lower the incidence rate to below 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants", he remarked.

Spain will receive four times the number of vaccines in the next quarter

If 2020 was the year of the pandemic, then 2021 will be remembered as the year of the end of the "health nightmare", thanks to vaccinations, declared the President of the Government.

Foto: Congreso de los DiputadosPedro Sánchez explained that the European Commission has signed contracts with six pharmaceutical companies to acquire a total of 2.27 billion doses of vaccines and is at an advanced stage of negotiations with two other companies. In the specific case of Spain, the Council of Ministers has already authorised the acquisition of 136 million doses of five vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna, Janssen and Curevac).

The President of the Government also highlighted the role that Spanish scientists are playing in the manufacture of authorised vaccines and in the development of new ones. Spanish science is developing 12 vaccine projects against COVID-19, three of which are being coordinated by the National Scientific Research Centre (Spanish acronym: CSIC).

As regards the Vaccination Strategy agreed at the Inter-territorial Health Council, Pedro Sánchez indicated that the priority groups will continue to be updated according to the circumstances. Spain, he highlighted, currently stands above such countries as Germany, France and Italy in the average vaccination rate per 100 inhabitants, with a volume of some 540,000 doses being administered each week.

As well as reaffirming the target of vaccinating 70% of the population before the end of the summer, the President of the Government expressed his conviction that the supply problems that have taken place in the European Union in recent weeks "will be overcome shortly", above all when taking into account the new vaccines underway, and hence Spain could receive four times the number of vaccines in the next quarter. Pedro Sánchez also referred to Spain's social commitment, advocated at an EU level, to facilitating access to the vaccines to countries with the most difficulties in obtaining them.

More resources for struggling sector

The President of the Government underlined that 2021 will also be the year of the economic and social recovery which will give "hope and bring tranquillity" to the public. "I understand that in this midst of the thick fog of this crisis it is hard to glimpse the end, but we are close to exiting the crisis".

Foto: Congreso de los DiputadosThis recovery will be possible, he outlined, thanks to the 140 billion euros that Spain will receive over the next six years from the EU reconstruction funds, structured through the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. He claimed that this is the "most ambitious economic modernisation project in the history of our country"; it began to be implemented last week with the first meeting of the Plan's governance body.

Furthermore, the Plan is backed by specific actions contained in the National Budget for this year to change the productive model. These public accounts, remarked Pedro Sánchez, amount to more than 239 billion euros to combat the effects of the pandemic "and thus shield our Welfare State".

The President of the Government defined the measures to support companies, workers and households introduced since the outbreak of the pandemic as "an exercise in protection never seen previously in Spain's history". He also announced that the government will shortly approve an additional 11 billion euros for companies, SMEs and the self-employed. The aim is to continue helping sectors that were enjoying growth prior to the pandemic but are now in an "extremely difficult" situation, such as tourism, hotel and catering, restaurants and small retail businesses, among others. These funds will help strengthen the solvency of their balance sheets, make necessary investments and hire the workers they need.

Quality jobs, the main pillar of all economic policy

The President of the Government argued that the government's aim is "not to leave anyone behind", "always look ahead" and "grow in another way, transformed", to achieve a "more digital, more sustainable, more cohesive, and fairer and more feminist Spain". These four major transformations seek to create quality and sustainable jobs, which is the foundation of the government's entire economic policy".

Pedro Sánchez reported that one of the main eligibility criteria in the rounds of proposals for projects under the Recovery Plan, being implemented in collaboration with the private sector - industrial, digital, technological and energy projects - will be the creation of quality jobs. According to the government's estimates, close to 850,000 jobs will be created in the next three years.

Call for unity

Foto: Congreso de los DiputadosThese quality jobs are tied into strengthening education and training and to promoting Spanish talent and attracting global talent, declared the President of the Government, who reviewed the government's initiatives in these areas, from the Plan to Modernise Vocational Training to the national digitalisation plans presented recently.

The President of the Government recalled that a whole generation only knows uncertainty, a situation that must change for Spain to progress. "We cannot plot out a future of progress based on the sacrifice of our young people", claimed Pedro Sánchez, who thanked young people for the responsibility that the majority of them have shown during the pandemic.

"We have good reason to look to the future with confidence and hope", he stressed. The President of the Government called for unity and responsibility from the parliamentary forces to contribute, between us all, to making 2021 a turning point and for Spain to overcome the pandemic "and achieve the place it deserves in both Europe and the world".

Non official translation