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Spain announce new state of alarm with plans to keep it in place until May

Spain’s prime minister Sanchez approves new state of alarm until May. Regional governments can prohibit travel as well as a nationwide curfew.

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The expected announcement by the Spanish Cabinet has now approved a new national state of alarm, with the purpose of giving Spain’s regional governments the legal framework they need to enforce a number of restrictions.

The limit of mobility and socialising in a bid to combat the second wave of the coronavirus. An obligatory curfew for the entire country from 11 pm to 6 am, but with regional control of having a margin of one hour to bring forward or back the curfew times. The ruling also limits social meetings between citizens to six people for the entire country,

Also, the regional governments will also have the power of restricting the entrance and exit from their territories unless this is for essential travel. This would allow regions to close their borders should they have the need to do so, avoiding a neighbouring territory that is seeing a high number of infections and deaths with the coronavirus.

Today’s decree will not see the closure of Spain’s borders, as was the case back in March during the first wave of the pandemic. The Canary Islands have been excluded from the decree as the Spanish region currently has the best coronavirus data.

It is said that the Spanish government has no intention of returning to the total lockdown of March and the almost total shutdown of the economy that this involved. The vast majority of the regional governments do agree that a nighttime curfew will reduce infection rates. More than 30% of transmissions are said to be taking place during social meetings in homes. All of the regional governments are seeing that early closing for bars is not enough, in particular, the younger generation is resorting to late-night socialising in private residences.

For the second time in seven months that the coalition government headed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) with junior partner Unidas Podemos has made use of the emergency measure, the lowest of three that are set out by the Spanish Constitution.

The new state of alarm is unlike that of the first when the state of alarm was used to impose to the citizens of Spain one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns. Another distinct difference between now and the last state of alarm in Spain back in March 2020 is that the government is making clear its duration from the outset stating that is should remain in place until May 2021. A much longer time frame than that of the first which will initially be established for 15 days and was constantly being reviewed.

Although the government can only approve the state of alarm for 15 days, it is written in the text of the decree being prepared, a specific mention of the need to prolong the measure.  The Valencia region, for example, has already talked about keeping a curfew in place until December 9. This way, the government can avoid having to seek support every two weeks.

The current measures are much less severe than before, but is still an attempt to protect against a second wave of the pandemic in Spain as quickly as possible, and reach the Christmas season with figures that are more under control.

In Congress, meanwhile, the government should not have problems securing the votes it needs. Ciudadanos has already pledged its support, while the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) will also lend its votes, having been the first region to call on the government to implement the state of alarm. Catalonia has also requested it, meaning that the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCAT) will also support the coalition.

However, the government is insisting on trying to secure the support of the PP, which governs in five of Spain’s 17 regions. The PP voted against the extension of the state of alarm in June and has been reticent to call for it to be implemented again, stating instead that the government should reform existing laws to ensure that the coronavirus measures deemed necessary by regional governments enjoy legal backing. Regional High Courts across the country have been rejecting some of these restrictions, on the basis that only the central government can restrict fundamental rights such as freedom of movement.

Sánchez also called for an overwhelming parliamentary backing for the measure, therefore piling on the pressure on the PP to back it. Sánchez also announced that he had been in touch with the PP leader, Pablo Casado, to communicate the measures and request his support.

“We have a long road ahead, we are going to have to deploy a huge exercise of resistance,” he added, explaining that the six-month time frame for the state of alarm will not be immovable should the coronavirus data improve.

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