Spain’s finance minister and government spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, has explained that regional presidents and not the prime minister will be accountable for decisions under the state of alarm. Specifically, regional governments and parliaments will determine whether to maintain curfews or not.
This is a key aspect of the government’s position as it seeks Congress approval for a six-month extension to the state of alarm until May 9*. Montero said on Tuesday that the government has amassed sufficient support from parties in Congress to gain approval when the extension is debated on Thursday. “If we take the alarm decree to Congress, it is because we believe that it has the necessary support.”
The technicalities of the decree are such that the Spanish government isn’t itself applying restrictions. Regional presidents will adopt measures. “The state of alarm we are proposing does not in itself include any type of restriction. The only argument that the government has for seeking this is the overwhelming request of regional presidents for the mechanism to be activated so that restrictions can be dictated that correspond to the pandemic situation.”
The government has therefore responded to this request and “fully” trusts that the regions will use the state of alarm as an instrument to be able to introduce restrictions without impeding fundamental rights through mobility restrictions. “The state of alarm is available to presidents so that they can apply forceful measures to contain the virus.” The six-month period, Montero added, is one recommended by experts in order to overcome the pandemic.
The consequence of all this, subject of course to Congress approval, is that the Balearic government could in theory lift the curfew when the initial fifteen-day state-of-alarm period expires. In practice this would be most unlikely. When the regional government modified the curfew hours on Monday, the minister for the economic model, tourism and employment, Iago Negueruela, made clear that if the health data indicate the necessity, the curfew could start at 11pm or even at 10pm. The minister has also said that the curfew is a necessary tool to prepare for the 2021 tourism season.
* Or four months to March 9 plus a review for a further two-month extension to May 9.