MADRID – On October 25 last year, the State of Alert was declared. It was initially supposed to last 2 weeks but was then extended until 9 May. Finally, the time has finally come for this status to be lifted.
From then on, in the event of a new resurgence in Covid cases, the autonomous communities must seek approval of their higher courts to restrict fundamental rights. According to some lawyers, regions may seek permission from their higher courts to impose new restrictions. For example, a specific curfew in a demarcated municipality if they allege a high incidence of the disease. However, they will not be able to impose such measures generally on the entire region. This was stated by the vast majority of lawyers consulted by El Confidencial. Thus, the final decision is taken by the judge and there is no unanimous position among constitutional experts.
Some autonomous communities such as Galicia are working on their own decrees. They want to acquire competences and legal certainty to act.
Six months of State of Alert in Spain
At the end of October, a 14-day accumulated virus incidence of 361.66 cases per 100,000 resident was of great concern. The word ‘confinamiento’ (lockdown) dominated many conversations at the time. The goal of the State of Alarm was to reduce the incidence to 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. That is the threshold set by the EU for a country to be considered ‘safe’. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was confident to reach that threshold before Christmas and thus be able to ‘save’ the holidays.
At the time, the 25 cases per 100,000 threshold did not seem so unrealistic. After all, this had already been reached in many parts of Spain in June and partly in July. Moreover, in the summer, Spain even had an average incidence of less than 10 per 100,000. The challenge was to reach the threshold of 25 with specific measures tailored to various situations without implementing a general, strict lockdown.
Regional Government Responsibility
In contrast to the previous period, the responsibility for imposing the necessary measures was shifted to the regional governments from the end of October. They took all kinds of measures such as mobility restrictions, limiting capacity in hospitality establishments and shops and limiting opening hours. This did not prevent the peak of 529.43 cases per 100,000 inhabitants being reached on November 9.
17 models to inhibit virus spread
As a result of the ‘co-governance’ by the regions, in reality 17 different models were used to try to contain the common pandemic. Despite this and mainly thanks to a massive application of antigen tests in almost all autonomous regions, together with the different measures, the incidence decreased again during the month of November. By December 3, the figure that has dominated policy for a year had fallen to 240.89. However, that was still 10 times higher than the 25 target set by the national government. Even the director of the corona crisis centre Fernando Simón had to admit that this goal might have been a bit ‘optimistic’.
The third wave
A week later, the Inter-territorial Council, which includes all regional presidents, decided against its own criteria to reopen the country for the holidays. If the incidence had dropped below 100 in January, it would be fine, says Simón. The consequences are known. In mid-January and early February, Spain was inundated by the third wave with virus incidence peaks of around 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants as the national average. Everywhere new lockdowns were introduced, perimeter closures of municipalities, regions and provinces and various curfews. Since then, no one from the authorities speaks about the target of 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
As of October 23 last year, the day with the lowest mean 14-day virus incidence was March 17, 2021, with 127.91 cases per 100,000 population. This minimum is still five times higher than the ideal maximum of 25.
Viewed by region, the number ultimately did not fall below 25 anywhere in Spain. Only the region of Valencia came very close on March 29 with an incidence of 26.58.
The latest data published by the Department of Health on Friday shows a national average virus incidence of 198.60. This is not far from the limit above which the zone of ‘extreme risk’ is entered (250). Six autonomous regions are currently in this danger zone: Basque Country, Madrid, Aragon, Catalonia, Navarre and Melilla).
Lowest virus incidence while under State of Alert
The regions with the lowest incidence are Valencia (40.51) and the Balearic Islands (60.53). The newspaper El Español wonders whether it is possible that one of these regions will come close to the magical 25 at some point? The answer is that it is possible but not easy: the current 7-day incidences do not show a decrease anywhere.
In addition, many restrictive measures will be lifted from Sunday when the State of Alert ends. Everything then depends on the legal framework within which regions can take measures to respond to any increase in the number of cases. In addition, 2,183 patients are in an ICU in critical condition and 21% of the maximum resources of the ICs are occupied.