Spain rules out extending state of alarm past May 9

Catalan government plans to ease mobility restrictions starting next Monday

Pedro Sánchez, head of the Spanish government, at a meeting with ministers (by Pool Moncloa and Borja Puig de la Bellacasa)
Pedro Sánchez, head of the Spanish government, at a meeting with ministers (by Pool Moncloa and Borja Puig de la Bellacasa) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

April 20, 2021 04:10 PM

The Spanish government has ruled out extending the state of alarm beyond its current expiry date, May 9, which will put an end to six months of constitutionally exceptional measures in place to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The end of the state of alarm will also mean the night curfew will disappear, a measure which has been in force since the Spanish cabinet invoked extraordinary powers last October, amid the second wave of the virus.

Now, with fears of a fourth wave slowly fading, and epidemiological indicators stabilizing after weeks spent rising, the Catalan government is also preparing to start lifting mobility restrictions on Monday.

The problem, say Catalan officials, is that should Covid-19 infections rise again, the regional government might no longer have the constitutional authority to pass the measures needed to contain the spread of the virus, and courts could reverse any new restrictions which may curb the freedom of movement or control the size of gatherings.

Last summer, with no state of alarm in force, the regional court in Lleida ruled against the Catalan government and defied a decree imposing a new lockdown on the city, accusing the regional executive of overstepping its authority.

The Catalan government’s spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, has called for reform on Spain’s Public Health law to empower regions to impose stricter measures in their own communities in the case of a health emergency.

But the Spanish government has ruled out the proposal, stating that the most restrictive limitations upon fundamental freedoms should remain exclusive to the state of alarm. "We believe that regions already have enough tools at their disposal," said María Jesús Montero, the Spanish government spokesperson.

The latest state of alarm —the second of the coronavirus pandemic, and the fourth since the passing of the Spanish constitution in 1978— was greenlighted by a majority of lawmakers in the Spanish congress on October 29, 2020, liberating the government from repeatedly having to seek two-week extensions as was the case during the first few months of the pandemic. 

Reopening plan

In Catalonia, health authorities are expected to decide by Thursday whether the county lockdown will be fully lifted on Monday, or else if mobility remains restricted to a limited area.

Catalan officials are also studying a proposal to launch a safe passage to attend cultural events, such as concerts or theater plays, adding them to the list of exceptions to the travel restrictions.