Public Policy Dynamics Spain #7

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in Spain

Total COVID-19 cases:3,336,637
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:149
14-day change:+37
Total COVID-19 deaths:76.179
14-day rise:1,759
  • The Government has announced its willingness not to extend the state of emergency that the country has been in since March 2020, with the intention of restoring institutional normalcy as of 9 May. At the political level, the discussion is focused on the regional elections in Madrid, which will take place on 4 May.
  • The Minister of Science has announced the reform of the Science Law to introduce new criteria for promoting research and the retention of talent, as recommended by EU Commission. The Ministry of Health meanwhile has reassured that the draft law on biosimilars and generic medicines will soon be finalised, coming after the delays in its approval due to the health emergency.
  • Regional authorities are concerned about the increase in Covid-19 infections after the Easter holidays, amidst some scepticism about the Government's promises to have vaccinated 70% of the population by the end of the summer. To date, 3,020,450 people have received the full guideline of the vaccine, translating to 6.23% of the total population.

Politics

  • Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has expressed the Government's willingness not to extend the state of emergency, an exceptional situation in which the country has been in since 14 March 2020. If the Government's intention is maintained, the state of emergency would end on 9 May 2021.
  • The departure of former second vice-President and Social Rights Minister Pablo Iglesias (Podemos party) from the Government to stand as a candidate in the regional elections in Madrid has led to some changes in the cabinet: the second vice-presidency will be held by Nadia Calviño (Socialist party), who will remain Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation. Yolanda Díaz (Podemos party), Minister of Labour and Social Economy, will be upgraded to third vice-president. Ione Belarra (Podemos party), current Secretary of State for the 2030 Agenda, will become Minister of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda. Pedro Sánchez has sought to underline feminist leadership with four female vice-presidents in the cabinet.
  • As of 31 March 2021, there were 743,628 people protected by ERTE (furlough programmes funded by social security). Although these figures have remained stable since September, indicating that the second and third waves of the pandemic have had a much smaller effect on employment than the first, there is great concern about the situation in which these workers may find themselves if business closures continue in the coming months. For this reason, the Ministry of Finance has announced the transfer of €7 billion in direct aid to SMEs and the self-employed, which make up 80% of the country's business fabric.
  • Within Parliament, Congress has approved the Climate Change Law after years of delays. The goal of the law is to align environmental policies with European objectives. To this end, it aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 (meaning that only greenhouse gases that can be captured by sinks, such as forests, are emitted) and establishes specific goals such as 74% of electricity being of renewable origin. It is worth noting the broad consensus reached for the approval of this law across the political board in the Parliament.

 

Health

  • The Government has announced the reform of the Science Law and the reorganisation of public research entities, with a first goal to attract and retain scientific talent. One of the main elements of the new regulation will be the creation of a 'tenure track' type contracting model, as exists in the USA, Canada and more recently in European countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Italy, which consists of a fixed contract subject to external evaluation. This would follow the recommendation of the European Commission, which has urged Spain to undertake reforms in this regard.
  • The Committee on Social Rights and Disability Policies approved on 7 April the report on the Draft Law on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents against Violence. Measures in the health sector are based on the collaboration between health administrations. Within this framework, the creation of a new Commission against violence against children and adolescents is proposed, to draw up a common protocol for health action, emphasising the need to guarantee comprehensive and age-appropriate mental health care.
  • The Plan of Generic Medicines and Biosimilars, halted for more than a year due to the health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, is getting closer to be approved. It was in October 2019 when the Ministry published the draft Action Plan as agreed during the Standing Committee on Pharmacy. This project includes measures such as the interchangeability of biosimilar medicines, the dynamic price agreement and the return of discounts from pharmacies. The Ministry of Health has assured that the draft will be finished soon and will be passed on to the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System for its approval by the regions.

 

Covid-19

  • Covid-19 infections in Spain are increasing at a worrying rate. 110 infections per 100,000 people were reported in the last 7 days. To date, Spain has received 9,703,645 vaccines. In total, 9,689,995 have been delivered to the regions, another 7,800 have been delivered to Andorra and 5,850 remain in the possession of the AEMPS (Medicines Agency) and are ''in the process of being sent''. Of the total number of doses delivered, 8,548,598 have been administered, representing 88.2% of the doses received. Finally, 2,841,148 people have already received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, thus having the full regimen. All in all, 6.23% of the population have already received the complete vaccine with both doses, while 12% have only the first.
  • Pedro Sánchez has promised that 70% of the population will be vaccinated by the end of August, amidst widespread scepticism due to the existing problems with vaccine supply and recurrent changes of criteria for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In this regard, the Ministry of Health is reflecting on giving a second dose of a different vaccine to the 2 millions of citizens who have received the first shot with the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it is now only recommended for use above 65 years old.
  • The Government has formally extended the limitations on flights from Brazil and South Africa, wary of the possibility to import cases of local variants of the virus.

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