Public Policy Dynamics Spain

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in Spain

Total COVID-19 cases:2,173,089
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:552
14-day change:+89.4
Total COVID-19 deaths:52,878
14-day rise:2,109
  • The polar storm “Filomena” marks an unusual start to the year in Spain, producing significant damage that makes it foreseeable that the Government will declare a state of emergency in some regions. The political priority remains the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, however, with the expectation that the most vulnerable groups will be immunised by the end of March.
  • The health agenda begins with the decision of the Minister of Health Salvador Illa to run in the Catalan regional elections (expected to be held in February). As a result, the ministry is expected to be restructured in the coming months.
  • The third wave of the pandemic has hit the country and circulation of the virus is rising rapidly. There is particular concern about the increasing pressure on hospitals and some regions are calling for a new lockdown of the population.

Politics

  • The polar storm “Filomena” has marked an unusual start to the year in Spain, with significant snowfalls in the north and centre of the country. The storm has caused significant damage to land and air communications, leading to the cutting of access roads to Madrid and the closure of Barajas airport. Flights have now resumed, and the situation is slowly improving, even though its effects will last until the middle of next week. It is expected that the Government will declare a state of emergency in Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha, the regions most affected by the storm.
  • On Monday 18 January, work will resume in Parliament after the Christmas holidays and the interruption caused by the polar storm. The approval of the new General Budget should mean a year of stability for the current coalition government, although there are concerns about the effects that the pandemic crisis may have on the country's economy, especially in the increase of unemployment rate. European recovery funds are expected to help boost policies that will partly alleviate the expected fall in national output. 
  • On the most pressing issues, the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 is the highest priority. So far, Spain ranks fourth in Europe in terms of vaccinations administered, although there is a great disparity between regions and regional governments are demanding that the Government guarantee the supply of the second round of vaccinations.

 

Health

  • The health policy is conditioned by the decision of the health minister, Salvador Illa, to run in the Catalan regional elections. These elections are expected to be held on 14 February, unless last minute changes are forced by the health emergency, and as such Illa will serve as acting minister until then. Various sources point to some changes in the Government, as the current Minister of Territorial Policy, Carolina Darias, could be the replacement for Illa as the Head of the Ministry of Health.
  • These announcements come at a time of maximum pandemic severity, in the middle of a third wave. As a result, the opposition parties have been very critical and are demanding the Government to focus on addressing the health emergency.
  • On health policy more broadly, the public consultation launched by The National Commission on Markets and Competition is noteworthy in the context of a study focusing on the competition in the market for wholesale distribution of over-the-counter medicines in Spain. The results of this study could lead to important implications for the retail and distribution industry and the business relationship with pharmacies, although it does not affect the distribution of medicines in hospitals.

 

COVID-19

  • According to official reports, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 50,000 deaths since the advent of the pandemic, and there is concern about the spread of new virus strains and the increase in infections following the Christmas holidays. The number of confirmed cases is rising rapidly, as the total number of infections in Spain has already reached 2,211,967 since the beginning of the pandemic. The cumulative incidence in the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants has risen once again to 522. As a result of this, experts warn of a third wave runaway and fear that the occupation of intensive care beds will again make hospital care unsustainable.  
  • The head of Health Emergency, Fernando Simón, has called for caution and acknowledged that the new strain of the virus of UK origin has been circulating for three weeks, although the infections rate due to this variant remains low and we will have to wait a few weeks to assess the actual impact. 
  • In response to the progressive worsening of the situation, regional governments are tightening restrictions while calling on the central government to decree a new population lock down, as experienced in March 2020. The Executive has been reluctant to adopt such forceful measures, with express rejection from President Pedro Sánchez. Nevertheless, there could be changes in the coming weeks if the infection rate continues to increase.

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