Public Policy Dynamics Spain #6
Health and Politics in Spain
|Total COVID-19 cases:||3,247,738|
|14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:||112|
|Total COVID-19 deaths:||74,420|
- Vice-President of the Government Pablo Iglesias (Unidas Podemos) has departed the central government to run as a candidate for the regional elections in Madrid. Following this, a number of swaps within the government took place reinforcing the position of the main coalition party PSOE, from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
- Congress has passed the new euthanasia law, becoming the sixth country in the world to recognise it as a subjective right. The new law does not come without controversy, particularly from sectors demanding a reinforcement of palliative care policies and criticism from the Spanish Society of Intensive Care and opposition.
- The increase in Covid-19 infections has prompted the health minister to call for extreme caution at Easter, amid fears of a fourth wave after the holidays. On the other hand, vaccination campaign with Astrazeneca’s vaccines for the over-55s has resumed, following the endorsement of the European Medicines Agency's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC).
- The announcement of a non-confidence motion by the Ciudadanos party against its own governing party (the conservative People’s Party) in the region of Murcia raised fears for the stability of other regional governments formed by the same coalition parties. In fact, President of the Community of Madrid, from the People’s Party, pre-empted a possible collapse of her government by calling for snap regional elections on 4 May. Following suit, the vice-president of the central Government and leader of far-left Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, left the Government to run in these regional elections. The political battle for power in the country's capital took a high-level turn with prominent national leaders contesting, showing signs to be taken as a springboard for the future of the party system across the country.
- The Government is progressing on the funding mechanisms for the implementation of EU Recovery funds. On 23 March it approved the first distribution of funds among regions in application of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, totalling €581.12 million for projects related to green policies. This allocation will be discussed at the Sectoral Conference between the Ministry and the regions. Subsequently, regional Governments will launch the calls for proposals, selection and implementation of projects under the said objectives.
- Congress has validated the Government's initiative on measures to support business solvency in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, which aims to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the most affected sectors. To this end, it proposes mobilising public investment of up to €11bn in four action lines: three additional funds to cover direct aid, balance sheet restructuring and the recapitalisation of companies, and the extension of tax and bankruptcy moratoriums. It is expected that this plan will bring some relief to businesses, especially the tourism and hospitality industries.
- The Congress on 18 March passed the new Organic Law on euthanasia. This initiative, promoted by the Socialist Group, introduces euthanasia as a new individual right, defined as "the action that produces the death of a person directly and intentionally by means of a single and immediate cause-effect relationship, at the informed, express and repeated request of said person over time, and which is carried out in a context of suffering due to an incurable illness or suffering that the person experiences as unacceptable and which has not been mitigated by other means". This makes Spain the fourth country in Europe and the sixth in the world to recognise this subjective right. Despite the widespread support for this law, some stakeholders such as the Spanish Society of Palliative Care (Secpal) and the Spanish Association of Palliative Care Nurses (Aecpal) have also criticised the “lack of technical and scientific advice in the drafting of the law”, calling for greater investment in critical and palliative care.
- On 16 March, the Government approved the adoption of the “Plan of Measures to Address the Demographic Challenge” within the Delegate Commission for the Demographic Challenge, which further develops relevant strategic lines already announced in the Spanish Recovery Plan. To that end, an investment of €10bn from the EU Recovery funds will promote 130 measures “to combat depopulation and ensure social and territorial cohesion”. Health is a key action, although overlapping with some already existing or known allocations, such as the new the Strategic Framework for Primary and Community Care, the Health Cohesion Fund (FCS), the improvement and adaptation of the National Health System (SNS), the promotion of R&D projects in the field of security and the Digital Health Strategy. It is noteworthy the attention paid to care and dependency systems, for which the "development of a plan for support and long-term care to improve the System for Autonomy and Dependency Care (SAAD) or a plan for the modernisation, innovation and digitisation of social services" is reported.
- After two months of decline in Covid-19 figures, last week the infection rate increased again, as health authorities reported more than 5,500 cases and 200 deaths in 24 hours. The trend is up in 12 regions, demanding a continuation of restriction measures during Easter.
- The Minister of Health Carolina Darias has called for extreme precautions to be taken during Holy Week, due to fears of an increase in the number of infections. To that end, a mandatory perimeter lockdown will be imposed on all regions, as along with a minimum curfew from 11pm to 6am. Individuals are allowed to meet up to 4 people in closed public spaces and 6 in open spaces, with no meetings outside living bubbles allowed in private spaces.
- The vaccinated population currently sits in 4.81% for the full doses, with slightly over 9% of the total population having received one dose. The vaccination campaign continues with the government hoping to reach an adequate level of immunisation by summer. Health authorities decided on the continuation of the use of Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, extending its use further up until 65 year olds.