Covid-19 handling and response strategy under the microscope in Parliament debate

The impact of the coronavirus in nursing homes and economic recovery plans expected topics in the Catalan chamber

A healthcare worker performs a coronavirus test on a person (image by Francisco Avia, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona)
A healthcare worker performs a coronavirus test on a person (image by Francisco Avia, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona) / Cillian Shields

ACN | Barcelona

July 1, 2020 09:51 AM

The Catalan parliament is today holding a plenary session to debate the Covid-19 crisis, and the management of the pandemic at an institutional level. 

With nursing homes hit particularly bad by the health emergency, the government came under fire for their response, with issues surrounding lack of staff, lack of action, and lack of accurate statistics.

Catalan president Quim Torra railed against the Spanish government’s management of the health emergency, criticizing the distribution of resources during the peak of the crisis and announcing that his executive’s latest estimates say that Catalonia will need €30 billion to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus and reactivate the economy.

The Catalan figurehead said that his government is now in a “very delicate” position financially due to the Spanish government not transferring sufficient funds. 

Torra has announced that this week he will send a letter to Pedro Sánchez requesting a loan on behalf of Catalonia to the European Stability Mechanism. 

In it, he will ask for €5 billion to help ease the burden. "We can't wait until next year to receive European aid. We need the resources now," he said.

The Catalan chief also announced in his address that changes to the already-approved budget will be presented later this month. The executive will present a first proposal on July 16-17 and will approve it on 21 July. 

In this revised fiscal plan, the government will re-prioritize areas of the budget through internal modifications that will not need the approval of the parliament. 

Pandemics “here to stay”

Interior minister Miquel Buch and health minister Alba Vergés, two prominent figures during the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Catalonia, also had turns to speak in the chamber. 

Both defended their executive’s management of the emergency and sent a message of reassurance to the people. 

However, Vergés warned that "pandemics are here to stay" and she predicted that, moving forward, nothing will be as before. 

For Buch, the emergency is "historic and global," but he has assured that the government is ready to rise again after this difficult period: "We will not fail."

Ciudadanos criticize lack of responsibility

The reconstruction of Catalonia following the peak of the crisis will also be debated, as requested by the largest single party in the parliament, the unionist opposition Ciudadanos.

Their head, Lorena Roldán, turned her attention to Torra’s government, criticizing them for not taking responsibility. Directing her comments toward the Catalan president, Roldán said that Torra “spent the whole state of alarm protesting for more power,” and said that “it is not possible to govern only for your own” [people].

The leader of the Ciudadanos party in the Catalan parliament went on to question whether would the governing partners leave aside their independence ambitions to deal with the ongoing emergency situation. 

The opposition head called the pro-independence leaders “experts is wasting the money of Catalans” during her address.

Roldán lamented the number of deaths seen across the country, saying that her party thinks about the interests of the whole population when making decisions, and reflected on the sacrifices made by healthcare personnel during the height of the crisis.

Carlos Carrizosa, another leading figure in the Ciudadanos party, urged the institutional commemorative acts to be completely neutral and free from partisan imagery or symbols. 

Carrizosa lamented that some businesses that were forced to close in March due to the lockdown still have not been able to reopen. 

The opposition MP also said that his party have detected “erratic” policies in health and education, and said that his group will present measures to ensure a “safe return to school.”