MADRID – If Prime Minister Sánchez sticks to his decision to lift the state of alarm on May 9, the autonomous regions will no longer have legal protections for their freedom-restricting corona policies from this day forward. How can this policy be shaped from then on?
Measures including curfews, perimeter lockdowns and adjusted opening hours can no longer be regulated independently by regions from next week. Despite the fact most regions have pushed for an extension of the state of alert, the prime minister sees sufficient possibilities to combat the pandemic without this exceptional status.
The state of alarm
However, there is a relevant difference between the end of the state of alarm last July and now. Whereas then, there was a covid incidence of 10 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants, while it is now around 150. This means that there is still a “high risk” in Spain and the regions must therefore continue their corona policy.
Poor preparation creates a lack of clarity for when the state of alarm ends
Lecturer in Constitutional Law Fernando Álvarez-Ossorio believes that the Spanish government should have foreseen the coming situation. And as such, should have provided for a revision of the Public Health Act, which dates back to 1986. It could have established a legal framework within which regions without a general state could have acted of alarm. However, as this is not the case, regional courts have to decide whether or not a measure can be implemented. Furthermore, the problem arises that not all courts will adhere to the same criteria.
Regions are looking for their own solution
Catalonia is preparing for the coming situation with a regulation that makes it legally possible to impose measures such as curfews without a state of alarm. That regulation must first be approved by its own administration and then by the Catalan Supreme Court. Madrid, too, has now secured through the courts that it will be able to limit mobility. It can also enforce curfews and impose a maximum group size in the areas with the highest incidence.
Valencia is thinking about careful de-escalation
One of the few regions to support the Prime Minister’s decision is Valencia. With a relatively low covid incidence, President Ximo Puig is confident that even without a state of emergency, he has sufficient resources to initiate a cautious de-escalation. According to Puig, it is time to say goodbye to the state of alarm and to be open to a “summer of new economic and social opportunities“.
Criticism of Partido Popular
The PP previously denounced the lack of a plan B for the period after 9 May from the Spanish government. The Conservatives see the lifting of the state of alarm as nothing more than a campaign stunt. Resulting in the government looking the other way from the current situation in exchange for a handful of votes. The party would prefer to see the Public Health Act revised through an urgent procedure. Therefore creating a legal framework within which the pandemic can be combated.
Meeting of all regional presidents
However, according to party leader Pablo Casado, the prime minister has thrown off the table everything proposed by the PP. In search of clarity about the coming course of events, Casado has asked for a meeting with all regional presidents. Here, he will ask the prime minister to explain to them how they can proceed after 9 May.
Light at the end of the tunnel for the state of alarm
If necessary, the central government can only assign a state of alert to regions with a high covid incidence. This happened in the Madrid region at the beginning of October last year, despite the regional government’s opposition. However, director Fernando Simón of the corona crisis centre foresees that from 9 May it will no longer be necessary for any state of alert measures. “We now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our work is now in the final phase,” said Simón. Moreover, he was optimistic about the epidemiological course in Spain.