As the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down in Spain, opposition parties have intensified criticism of the government’s management of the health crisis, amid fresh calls for an extension of the lockdown. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
While the country now counts more than 177,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 18,579 deaths – of which about 523 fatalities in the last 24 hours – Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has been urging opposition leaders to come together this week to start work on a national pact to guide the country out of the health crisis and ensure socio-economic stability.
But Pablo Casado, the leader of conservative Popular Party (PP), has thrown an early spanner in the works by delaying his scheduled sit-down with the prime minister until at least next week.
The conservative leader had accused the prime minister and Socialist Party (PSOE) leader of using such discussions as a pretence to shift the blame for the government’s apparent failures in managing the crisis.
“If you want to make a pact, and I doubt you really do, do it with transparency and stenographers here in Parliament,” he told Sánchez during a parliamentary session attended by party spokespeople. “We do not want to be part of your puppet show,” Casado added.
While round-table negotiations in Spain typically start with a meeting between the prime minister and the biggest opposition party in the chamber, Sánchez kicked off this week’s proceedings with a video call with Inés Arrimadas, leader of Ciudadanos, the sixth-largest party in terms of parliament seats.
It was the first such parliamentary debate since the state of emergency came into effect in Spain a month ago.
While PP has increased its standing during the health crisis, with ratings increased from 19.6% to 21.1%, other major parties fell in the rankings, according to a political barometer survey that Spain’s public research body CIS published Wednesday (15 April).
Moreover, an overwhelming 87.8% of the 3,000 respondents interviewed in the first week of April believed parties should rally behind the government and leave criticism for after the crisis.
While Sánchez also said he would submit a further extension of the lockdown — until 11 May — to lawmakers on 22 April, the number of new infections detected on Wednesday jumped to 5,092, well above the recent daily average of about 3,000. Still, some 70,853 people have recovered since the outbreak began.
Fernando Simón, the head of the department of public health emergencies, attributed the surge in new infections to an accumulation of data from the Easter holiday period as well as increased testing in all Spanish regions, including for asymptomatic carriers.
On Wednesday (15 April), the government met with Spain’s autonomous communities to discuss education issues such as school closures and university entrance exams. The health ministry and Spain’s association of pediatricians have been working together to organise a “coordinated” manner for children to go outside again when de-escalation becomes possible.
Meanwhile, the IMF predicted on Monday (13 April) that Spain’s economy could fall by 8% while unemployment could skyrocket to 20%.