A sixth, and last extension of the state of emergency was approved in a close vote by the Spanish Parliament, to last until June 21.
Now in its third month, the extended state of emergency, which has been in place since March 14, will give the government continued authority to control movement across Spain even as the country continues to relax confinement measures.
The country’s 17 regional governments will have the power to determine the pace and course taken during the last, third phase, of the de-escalation process in their communities, which has been managed by the central government until now.
“We’ve overcome the worst of the pandemic,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said during the debate ahead of the vote in Spain’s lower chamber.
He said the state of emergency, considered to be Europe’s strictest confinement measures, were fundamental to controlling the spread of Covid-19.
Answering the main conservative opposition Popular Party leader Pablo Casado’s accusation that the Prime Minister “was unable to save lives”, Sánchez said: “Today, we have zero deaths from Covid-19 in Spain,” referring to the previous day’s zero mortality statistic. He continued by saying that “the strict confinement has been efficient” in battling Spain’s health emergency.
Sánchez, whose Socialist minority government worked in recent days to ensure enough votes from other parties to pass the extension, urged parliamentarians to approve it this last time, saying said it is needed in order to complete the country’s de-escalation towards a “new normality.”
Opposition parties, including the far-right Vox party, the third largest in parliament, have accused the government of dictatorial rule through the state of emergency, and pushing the country into economic ruin. Sanchez responded by saying “the government understands the impatience of economic sectors, but health takes priority. Without health, no business will stay open.”
Sanchez also said his cabinet will approve a decree for a “new normality,” with necessary containment measures until a vaccine or treatment is found.
Some more context: 70% of Spain is currently in Phase 2 of de-escalation from the severe confinement measures in place at the height of the pandemic, but the capital, Madrid, and Spain’s second largest city, Barcelona, are behind in Phase 1.
They were the hardest hit areas by the virus, with the most cases and deaths. Four small islands in Spain’s Canaries and Balearic Islands have already advanced to Phase 3, which has the fewest restrictions on activity and movement.
Most recent data from Spain’s Ministry of Health published Wednesday afternoon show a total of 27,128 deaths due to Covid-19, and 240,326 infections. One new Covid-19 death has been reported in the latest data.