Following a special cabinet meeting to discuss a Coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency plan on Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez then announced via video conference that his government would be injecting €1bn into the Spanish health service, and transferring a further €2.8bn to regional authorities across Spain to help them support their own healthcare services.
The measures followed an update from the Spanish Health Ministry on the current status of Coronavirus in Spain on Thursday, confirming over 3,000 known cases across the country, with 84 deaths (34 more than on Wednesday). Of the total confirmed cases, there are known to be 1388 in Madrid, 346 in the Basque Country, 260 in Catalonia, 220 in La Rioja (northern Spain), 115 in Andalusia and 94 in Valencia.
On Thursday evening, the Catalan government ordered the lockdown of four towns: Igualada, Vilanova del Camí, Santa Margarida de Montbui and Òdena, ordering that no-one will be allowed to enter or leave the area from midnight tonight. There are 60,000 residents in the area, and it is the site of Catalonia’s biggest Covid-19 cluster, with 58 cases already confirmed.
Despite Pedro Sánchez’s relief packages to help with the growing health and economic emergencies, Spain’s Ibex 35 index plunged by a record 14.06%. With the day having started with news that US President Donald Trump has issued a 30-day ban on travel to the US from mainland Europe over the Coronavirus pandemic, widespread panic across global financial markets continued throughout the day.
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 11 March
A tweet from the Spanish health authorities @SaludPublicaEs confirming the 3,004 Coronavirus cases at 6pm, region by region:
Casos de #Coronavirus en España, actualizados a las 18h de hoy:
País Vasco 346
La Rioja 220
TOTAL 3004 pic.twitter.com/Ui2Ht9gGax
— Salud Pública (@SaludPublicaEs) March 12, 2020
In addition to the health services package, Sánchez also announced measures to provide economic relief to businesses, including a six-month moratorium on tax payments for small and medium companies, as well as the self-employed.
‘This is an important measure that will facilitate the injection of €14bn into the system,’ said Sánchez. Already announced, people off work in Spain due to infection or being confined will also be able to claim occupational sick pay from the first day, allowing them 75% of their salary, rather than 60% for the first 20 days.
Furthermore, Spain’s vital travel and tourism industry will also be eligible for a €400m credit line from the state. Hotels and tourist-related businesses across Spain are already seeing mass cancellations, with many cultural events and festivals being postponed or cancelled outright. As reported yesterday, Valencia announced the postponement of the famous Las Fallas that normally attracts over a million visitors to the city.
Spring is normally a very busy tourist season for Spain, with a number of festivals, annual cultural events and traditional fiestas attracting mass crowds, especially over Easter. Yet leisure and cultural events with over 1,000 people have now been suspended across the entire country, whilst those with fewer than 1,000 must reduce attendance to a third of the venue’s capacity.
On Thursday morning it was also announced that Spain’s Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, had tested positive for Coronavirus. Her partner, Pablo Iglesias, the second deputy prime minister and leader of the Podemos party that forms a coalition government with Sánchez’s socialist PSOE party, is currently in quarantine.
All other ministers in the Spanish cabinet were to be tested for Covid-19 during Thursday. As for today’s cabinet meeting, only the ministers considered ‘essential’ for approving the Spanish government’s action plan were in attendance. All plenary sessions of the Spanish Congress have been suspended until 24 March. Spanish MPs will be able to vote online, with only those wishing to speak in debates having to attend the chamber.
Also during Thursday the closure of all kindergartens, schools and universities was announced by the regional governments of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia, Murcia, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Navarre, the Canary Islands, Valencia and Castilla y León, following the lead of Madrid and La Rioja earlier this week.
During his video conference, Pedro Sánchez also recommended remote working for businesses across the country, although when asked directly about any possible plans that would see the region of Madrid in lockdown, he would only say, ‘We need to convey calm and serenity. We will take the measures that need to be taken in coordination with regional governments and in line with experts’ recommendations.’
? Recordem que a partir de la mitjanit ja no podrà sortir ningú d’Igualada, Santa Margarida de Montbui, Òdena i Vilanova del Camí a causa del confinament decretat pel #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/v9jjM7ayDh
— Mossos (@mossos) March 12, 2020
‘We all have an opportunity to do something very important for the others, to follow official recommendations in our personal and family space, and to act responsibly and with discipline,’ said Sánchez. ‘We will overcome this. Spain will recover its vitality, but we need to minimize the effects and that is the goal of these initial measures, and of those that will follow.’
All trips organised by the Imserso agency (Spain’s institute for senior citizens) have also been cancelled, due to the elderly being one of the most at-risk groups for Coronavirus.
In sport, Spain’s top-flight football league, La Liga, announced on Thursday that it was going to suspend two weekends that would have seen matches played behind closed doors. Real Madrid has placed its entire football and basketball teams in quarantine, after a basketball player tested positive for the virus.
It had already been decided on Tuesday that games in Spain’s top two divisions would be held behind closed doors but those fixtures over the next 14 days will now be suspended.
FC Barcelona had already confirmed that their tie against Napoli at Camp Nou next Wednesday will be played without fans, although UEFA is now facing mounting pressure to postpone completely both the Champions League and Europa League.
Up-to-date WHO advice and facts (in English) about the Coronavirus epidemic can be found here: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance.
Our previous reports on Coronavirus in Spain:
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 11 March
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 10 March
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 8 March