MADRID – Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivered on Friday a televised address requesting the public’s cooperation to confront a second wave of COVID-19 infections ripping through the country.
The tone of the speech was reminiscent of the numerous addresses Sanchez delivered when Spain was in the grips of a draconian nationwide lockdown in the spring, a situation the Socialist Party leader said must be avoided.
“The situation is grave. We have to reduce movement, we have to reduce social contact,” he said, although fell short of announcing new restrictions.
Spain this week became the first Western European country to surpass more than one million confirmed cases since the pandemic began but the prime minister on Friday said the reality was that more than three million Spaniards had likely contracted COVID-19.
At least 34,000 people have died from the virus since it arrived in Spain.
The number of daily figures being logged is now higher than the record levels detected during the first wave but recent studies suggested that up to 90 percent of cases went undetected by testing during the first wave, he added.
“The next few weeks and months are going to be hard. Very hard.”
“We must do everything to avoid a lockdown like we had in spring.”
Spain’s coalition government and regional leaders were discussing the introduction of a four-tier color-coded alert system to establish restrictions based on a set of indicators like infection rate and ICU occupancy.
According to the draft version of the alert scale, a region would be assigned the highest tier – extreme risk – if it reported a 14-day incidence rate of more than 250 cases per 100,000 and the lowest tier if there were fewer than 25 per 100,000.
Sanchez said he wanted to flatten the curve to bring the incidence rate to the lowest tier – Spain’s average incidence rate today is 348 cases per 100,000.
The prime minister pointed to measures such as curfews and localized lockdowns being imposed in other European nations like France and Belgium.
A number of Spanish regions, including Valencia and Castile and Leon, have requested the powers to impose nighty curfew and urged the national government to process the necessary legal framework.
Health minister Salvador Illa recently said that curfews would require a national state of alarm, a mechanism that has stirred up political bickering between the socialist-led coalition government and conservative-run regional executives.
Catalonia has so far resisted a curfew but has taken more drastic measures than most other regions by ordering bars and restaurants to temporarily close down.
The conservative regional government in Madrid also dismissed the need for a curfew and instead announced a set of new restrictions applicable from the weekend, when a national government-imposed state of alarm is due to expire.
From Saturday, residents of Madrid will no longer be allowed to socialize with people from outside their household between midnight and 6:00 am.