State of alarm: Spain limits movement and takes over key Catalan services

Work and buying basic goods among only reasons to leave home as Madrid denies lockdown on Catalonia

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez gives a press conference on the coronavirus crisis in the country (by Pool Moncloa / JM Cuadrado i Borja Puig de la Bellacasa)
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez gives a press conference on the coronavirus crisis in the country (by Pool Moncloa / JM Cuadrado i Borja Puig de la Bellacasa) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 14, 2020 09:03 PM

The Spanish government will limit the movement of people across Spain to fight the spread of the covid-19 coronavirus.

In Saturday afternoon's extraordinary Spanish cabinet meeting, the specific measures involved in the state of alarm, to be put in force from the same day, were decided.

These include allowing citizens to only leave home to buy basic goods, go to work, see a doctor, take care of dependent people, or in event of force majeure.

As of March 15, 14:02 CET, there were a total of 7,753 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all of Spain, with 288 deaths and 382 people in intensive care.

Madrid takes over regional key services

President Pedro Sánchez made a statement at 9 pm, seven hours later than originally planned, in which he also announced that the government in Madrid will take over the powers of all health, emergency services, and police authorities at all levels, including the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra.

Pedro Sánchez will have the final say in all matters, but he also delegates power to the Spanish ministers of defense, Margarita Robles; interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska; transport, José Luis Ábalos; and health, the Catalan Socialist Salvador Illa. Indeed, Illa will also be in charge of other departments outside the powers of his other three fellow members of the Sánchez cabinet.

This implies that Madrid would directly be in charge of all the key services that are facing the coronavirus crisis in Catalonia, currently managed by the Catalan executive.

This measure is provided in Spanish law in the event of a state of alarm, but on Saturday afternoon, the Catalan cabinet flatly rejected this decision when a draft was leaked.

"Let's not get confused with the enemy, the enemy is the virus," said Pedro Sánchez in an implicit response to Catalan president Quim Torra's complaints.

Ruling out lockdown on Catalonia

Torra had asked Madrid to help on a complete lockdown of Catalonia, blocking ports, airports and train links. Yet, Sánchez ruled it out in the press conference saying that "the virus understands no borders" and insisted the most important measure is that people respect the safety distance.

Specific measures with immediate effect include limitation of movement

The measures of the state of alarm will be in effect from when the official government bulletin (BOE) publishes the decree on Saturday night, and for the next 15 days at least, and in all territories of Spain. 

The measures are in force as soon as BOE publishes them, include: 

People will only be allowed to leave their homes in order to buy food and healthcare products, see doctors, work, return home, look after dependent people, go to the bank or insurance company, walk their pet, or in case of force majeure.

Schools, shops except those selling basic goods, restaurants, museums, closed

All educational activity is suspended, and undertaken online where possible. All retail activity suspended, while only essential businesses such as food shops, health centers, vets, newsagents, fuel, banks, tobacco shops, hairdressers, are allowed to remain open.

Museums, libraries, bars and restaurants will close, but food delivery services will continue. Elsewhere, parades and public festivals are suspended, while places of worship will stay open but subject to the regular protective measures such as avoiding crowds.

All health services are under the leadership of Spanish health minister Salvador Illa, who can give necessary orders to assure supplies, take control of industries, temporarily confiscate goods and close roads.

Regional train services will be reduced to a half, while the minister for transport can implement further measures to transport, but so far airports and ports are not affected by the measure. All food, power and gas supplies will be guaranteed. 

The army can be activated in order to enforce such unprecedented measures.