The Government has debated in recent hours the possibility of taking a leap and decreeing the state of alarm to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Pedro Sánchez has announced this Friday an exceptional appearance, which suggests that he would declare this extreme measure. This constitutional provision is in full debate among the ministers, according to Executive sources. The measures that can be agreed with the alarm state —initially for 15 days— are the following: Limit the movement or permanence of people or vehicles at specific times and places; practice temporary requisitions of all kinds of goods and impose mandatory personal benefits; intervene and temporarily occupy industries, factories, workshops, farms or premises of any nature, with the exception of private homes; limit or ration the use of services or the consumption of basic necessities; and to issue the necessary orders to ensure the supply of the markets and the operation of the services of the production centers of the basic necessity products.
In recent days there have been intense internal debates about the need to go further on some measures, but finally the president chose on Thursday to continue with a gradual line. However, the pressure continues, the opposition is tightening, other countries such as Portugal have decreed the state of alarm with fewer cases and the decision to take a stronger leap is forging in the Executive. There are ministers more favorable to gradualism, due to the economic and social consequences of each extreme measure, and others who are committed to reaching the maximum of restrictions as soon as possible at whatever cost. Sánchez has publicly insisted that all decisions are made based on what the experts recommend, especially Fernando Simón, who at all times have been more cautious and have proposed adapting the measures to the dimensions reached by the contagion without going to the maximums from the first moment.
The decree of state of alarm has only a precedent in the democratic stage, in the crisis of air traffic controllers in 2010. The opposition is also beginning to demand that it be activated: the president of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, has asked the Prime Minister its activation to restrict travel. The Executive, according to the sources consulted, is closely studying the case of Madrid – with 2,000 affected and 40 dead at the moment – to make a decision. He has several options on the table and he will graduate the response depending on the situation: there are 3,784 affected and 84 dead throughout Spain, according to the latest official data, and the internal debate within the Executive has already begun. Portugal has just decreed the state of alarm.
The state of alarm, regulated in article 116 of the Constitution and in the Organic Law 4/1981, It would allow the Council of Ministers to adopt extraordinary measures throughout Spain or in a part of the territory in various cases, among which are “epidemics and serious contamination situations”. This state, envisaged when circumstances make it impossible to maintain normality through ordinary powers, empowers the Government to place under its command all public officials and employees, including the police forces, of all Administrations and impose “extraordinary services on their behalf”. duration or its nature ”. In this situation, a postponement of the regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia, scheduled for April 5, is increasingly likely. But there is no decision made about it at this time: both autonomous Executives study all legal options, as does the Central Electoral Board.
The declaration of the state of alarm, unlike the states of emergency and siege, does not affect, in principle, the validity of fundamental rights – such as freedom of expression or of the press, or freedom of demonstration. However, it does allow the Government to “limit the movement or permanence of people or vehicles at specific times and places.”
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, did not expressly mention the state of alarm in his appearance yesterday, Thursday, after being asked about it by journalists, but he did not rule out any scenario either. The Government “will make the decisions that are necessary, when they are necessary and where they are necessary,” Sánchez stressed. The opposition has taken the lead with the Arrimadas proposal, but within the government some ministers have shown reluctance for the secondary economic effects that such a measure could have. Spain closed 2019 with growth of around 2%, and the Executive predicted a slight slowdown, up to 1.5%, for this year. But the global contagion and its effects in Spain have left that scenario very old. To the point that experts point out that the Spanish economy could go into recession throughout the second quarter, depending on the evolution of infections, the measures taken and how the crash plan announced yesterday by Pedro works. Sánchez, with a stimulus of 18,200 million between liquidity, cheap credits and funds to increase health spending in the communities.
The Executive can declare the state of alarm by means of a decree agreed in the Council of Ministers for a maximum period of 15 days, informing the Congress of Deputies, that it must meet immediately and that in turn must authorize any extension of this term. The decree determines the territorial scope to which the effects of the declaration extend, as stated in the Constitution in its article 116, something essential for the Galician and Basque elections.
The state of alarm has so far been applied only once in recent democratic history. It was in December 2010 when the Council of Ministers militarized the air traffic control towers after the abandonment of their jobs by civilian controllers, who carried out a covert strike with massive medical casualties.
Information about the coronavirus
– Here you can follow the latest news on the evolution of the pandemic
– The coronavirus map: this is how the cases grow day by day and country by country
– Guide to action against the disease
– In case of symptoms, these are the phones that have been enabled in each community