Again no alternative to the state of alarm?
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Tuesday that the state of alarm, the rule that covers mobility restrictions to deal with the pandemic, will end on May 9, as he believes no extension will be needed. The Spanish government's argument is that with the acceleration of vaccination after this date, restrictions as severe as the current ones will no longer be necessary. The real reason for Sánchez not to consider an extension, however, is that he wants to avoid a political negotiation during the Madrid election campaign on 4 May. So, we find ourselves, once again, with the political calendar interfering in public health decisions.
During all this time, the Spanish government has not approved any regulation that would make it unnecessary to resort to the state of alarm to approve, for example, a curfew, so that from May 9 this measure can no longer be implemented. Perimetral confinements can be approved, but always with judicial approval, a situation that already occurred during the summer and caused chaos, since some judges approved the restrictions and others did not. Here the Spanish government is relying on a ruling by the Supreme Court to unify the criteria of the judges, but the truth is that jurists believe that clashes between the administrations and the judiciary may occur again.
In any case, it would be foolhardy to leave the state of alarm without effect without a plan B or an alternative in case the situation deteriorates again and it is necessary, for example, to maintain the curfew. According to the Spanish government's own calculations, not even 15% of the Spanish population will have been vaccinated by 9 May, so there can be no confidence that immunisation will be high enough to bring the virus under control. The principle of prudence means that some kind of legal cover must be in place in case more drastic measures are needed, at least until July, when more than 50% of the population will have been vaccinated. In addition, the arguments of the Spanish government not to renew the state of alarm are the opposite to the ones they gave in October, when they justified the measure after verifying that the autonomous communities alone could not impose the confinement of the population at a certain time or even approve regional closures.
The reality is that, immersed in the decisive political battle in Madrid, Sánchez does not want to risk a multiple negotiation process in the Spanish Parliament in which he has to make concessions. And so he is once again passing the buck to the autonomous regions and the courts, as he did last summer. In a serious country, the extension of the state of emergency would have to be agreed upon by the government and the opposition, assuming that the regions would then decide to what extent they want to use it. But in Spain not even a pandemic is capable of making its two main political parties act responsibly. With the aggravating factor that on this occasion the mistakes are paid for with human lives.