Spain declares six-month state of alarm amid coronavirus surge
Madrid imposes night curfew and grants emergency powers to regional governments
The Spanish government declared the second country-wide state of alarm of the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday afternoon, this time delegating emergency powers to regional authorities like the Catalan government for as long as six months.
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez imposed a night curfew and announced plans to extend the state of alarm until May, pending congressional approval.
"We think we can get over it without a total lockdown, without stopping the country," said Spanish president Pedro Sánchez in a press conference while urging Spaniards to stay home.
After weeks of increasingly dire Covid-19 figures, when Spain became the first state in Western Europe to surpass one million cases, Catalonia and other regions called for a new state of alarm to expand executive powers and be able to pass more restrictive measures while leapfrogging judicial oversight.
"We think we can get over it without a total lockdown, without stopping the country"
Pedro Sánchez · Spanish president
Unlike in March, when Spanish president Pedro Sánchez imposed a single chain of command to fight the first wave of contagion, Madrid has opted for a decentralized state of alarm primarily managed by regional governments.
A minimum curfew was set from 12 am to 7 am, which regional authorities can extend from 10 pm to 7 am. The Canary Islands, where coronavirus contagion is under control, are the only region excluded from the measure.
In Catalonia, the curfew comes into force on Sunday night from 10 pm to 6 am, and all places open to the public will have to close their doors by 9 pm.
Regional authorities are also allowed to impose total or partial lockdowns within their borders, and social gatherings will be limited to 6 people, a measure already in place in Catalonia.
Until May 9, pending congressional approval
Next week, Sánchez will seek the support of lawmakers in the Spanish Congress to extend the state of alarm until May 9, with no further extensions needed.
In place from March to June, the first state of alarm was subject to parliamentary approval every two weeks — a challenging task considering the politically fragmented alliance of left-wing and regional parties that brought Sánchez to power.
While hoping to reduce his dependence on lawmakers, Sánchez said that health minister Salvador Illa will appear before Congress to report on the coronavirus situation every two weeks.
Criticism of Catalan government
Later on the day, the Catalan interior minister, Miquel Sàmper, said that the powers given by Spain's cabinet to regional governments to manage the state of alarm "are not enough."
According to him, that under the state of alarm in force, Catalonia cannot impose a total lockdown, but only mobility restrictions, a night curfew and measures that had already been imposed, such as limiting social gatherings to six people.
Catalan election unaffected
In later comments to the press on Sunday, Spanish government officials confirmed that the Catalan early election, due to be held on February 14, will still be able to go ahead despite the state of alarm.
The Basque and Galician elections were already held on July 12 despite the pandemic, although in that moment the state of alarm was not in force.