“We want May 9 to be the end point of the state of alarm.” The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, announced this Tuesday that, within four weeks, if the vaccination objectives outlined by the Ministry of Health are met, seven uninterrupted months of exceptionality will end, those that have elapsed since October and forced Due to the explosion of contagions in the return of summer, it reactivated the constitutional alarm tool – which had already been in force from March to June 2020 – to fight the pandemic.
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To consummate this “end of the nightmare”, as Sánchez called the health emergency generated by the coronavirus, the Executive is entrusted to ensure that there are no notable outbreaks and, above all, to a significant acceleration in the vaccination process in the next weeks to avoid a fourth wave. If Moncloa’s forecasts are met, mass vaccinations will allow five million Spaniards to be immunized in the first week of May, 10 in June and 33 in August, just over 70% of the country’s total population.
In practice, the end of the alarm will imply, according to government sources, that it will no longer be possible to limit fundamental rights such as free movement, so it will not be possible to establish a curfew like the one now in force, which varies depending on the of the communities.
Nor can there be a general confinement of the country like the one decreed at the beginning of the pandemic. And it will not be possible to limit mobility between autonomous communities, although they will be able, as before, to regulate mobility between provinces and between municipalities, based on the Public Health Law. This does contemplate the “coordination” of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System by the central government, but it does not grant it sole command, as it does attribute the state of alarm. The communities, however, will be able to confine localities in the event of major outbreaks.
The reluctance of the Basque Country and Andalusia
After Sánchez’s announcement not to extend the alarm, the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, showed his discomfort at the decision. On the one hand, it has questioned whether such a State decision is adopted without the assistance of the autonomous communities, with full powers in health matters and, in addition, delegated authorities in this exceptional framework to adjust the measures in the respective territories. But beyond the form, the Lehendakari also alluded to the background and to the doubts that raises in May the incidence has fallen enough or the vaccination has advanced so much as to dispense with the only framework that gives legal certainty to some limitations of rights such as night curfew reports Iker Rioja.
“It is a desire shared by all of society, but subject to unpredictable conditions today such as the evolution of the pandemic as well as the process and rate of vaccination. […] Hopefully it is possible. May the period from May 9 to the announced immunity of 70% of the population by the end of August be a period in which the supply of vaccines is guaranteed and that we continue to comply with preventive measures at the individual level! and collective! “, Urkullu wrote on Facebook, a tool that he regularly uses to launch institutional messages. The Lehendakari also recalled that he himself was the first regional leader to request a second state of alarm in February.
Along the same lines, the Minister of the Presidency, Public Administration and Interior of the Junta de Andalucía, Elías Bendodo, described the announcement made by the Prime Minister as “hasty”, a decision that, according to him, Sánchez adopts because “he returns to look with the political prism instead of doing it with the sanitary as Andalusia does “.
Avoid parliamentary negotiation
Avoiding a new extension of the state of alarm, Sánchez avoids a predictably complicated parliamentary negotiation to be able to ratify the extension of the exceptionality in the Congress of Deputies. The Government is not guaranteed the support of its investiture and budget partners, mainly due to ERC’s reluctance to reach new agreements with the Executive, as it is conditioned by the rest of the Catalan independence forces – supporters of the total break with Moncloa – in the middle of the negotiation for the formation for the Government of the Generalitat that emerged from the polls on February 14.
Sánchez already had difficulties for the successive extensions of the alarm from March of last year. The PP, the main opposition party, withdrew its support for the Government in the fourth extension, arguing that the exceptionality allowed Sánchez to exercise power in an “authoritarian” and even “dictatorial” manner, according to Pablo Casado. Since then, the Executive had to negotiate each of the extensions practically until the last minute of each vote in Congress, and the parties sold their support for Sánchez’s plans at a high price, establishing different demands and conditions. Moncloa had to make use of its “variable geometry” to sometimes obtain the support of pro-independence forces and, on other occasions, Citizens, who broke the block of the three rights and began their distancing from the PP.
Despite the current growth trend in the number of infections, the Executive considers that with the restrictions still in force until May 9 and with the acceleration of vaccination – as long as the laboratories facilitate the arrival of the doses and they do not occur new setbacks that delay the process – the pandemic could begin to be controlled in a month, so that exceptionality would no longer be necessary. “In total, we have contracted more than 87 million doses between April and September. This will allow us to ensure that any compatriot can be vaccinated in that period,” Sánchez explained at a press conference on Tuesday.
“In this second quarter the vaccination process is going to accelerate significantly. We are going to join all our forces to vaccinate and vaccinate without rest. It is the main occupation of the Government. Each vaccinated person is a person protected against the serious development of the disease and It is, therefore, a safe life, “he pointed out.
Sánchez’s first objective is to have managed to immunize five million people with the vaccine at the gates of the end of the state of alarm, on May 3. It is the simplest milestone. As of April 6, there are 2.8 million people fully immunized, so 2.2 million are missing from that goal. In the second half of April, as announced by Minister Carolina Darias and taking into account the distribution of the European Union (EU), 300,000 doses of Janssen will arrive, which, because they are single doses, directly immunize 300,000 citizens. At least 1.2 million weekly from Pfizer also arrive. This means, until Monday, May 3, almost five million doses. And, at this time, there are 3.6 million citizens with the first Pfizer guideline in place, the vast majority of them older people who are waiting for the second at some point in the next three weeks. The accounts, even in the absence of confirming how many doses will arrive exactly from Moderna and AstraZeneca, come out.
The fear of unexpected factors
But the accounts come out on the condition that the pharmaceutical companies fulfill their commitments, and that human resources are optimized. “It is possible if all the doses are received well, if it is well organized, and if the staff is prepared. If we forget to close holidays, bridges and others. Because when it has been closed, as in Madrid, it has not been for lack of vaccines, it has been because it implies paying overtime. Every Sunday that is closed there are 400,000 doses without putting, ten Sundays there are 4 million citizens without vaccination “, summarizes José Antonio Forcada, president of the Nursing and Vaccine Association, involved in the vaccination.
He is also concerned about how unexpected factors such as AstraZeneca’s safety analysis will affect public opinion in the coming weeks: this Tuesday, a director of the European Medicines Agency assured that it is related to a few cases of thrombi on the continent. The operation will also require special devices, in some communities ‘vaccination fields’ are already being installed.
Throughout the second quarter of 2021, 36 million doses are expected to arrive, enough to immunize 21 million people by themselves (all vaccines are double doses except Janssen’s, and of this there will be five millions). They are triple those received between December 27 and the end of March, because this second quarter the EU has already promised a very strong boost to the campaign.
Placed in the first and second week of June are the following two targets for Sánchez: 10 million and 15 million immunized. That means by then a rate of at least 5 million punctures in a week, 700,000 a day; the current average does not reach 200,000, although there have been peaks of 500,000. Forcada and other experts consulted point out that, beyond group immunity (which has been placed, with nuances, in 70% of the protected population) and vaccinating the more people the better, the strategy should focus on the elderly 60 years. So far, as AstraZeneca has been targeting minors, the group between 65 and 79 years old is at the tail end. That is, a purpose that Sánchez has not mentioned, beyond the specific numbers, should be to have all those over 60 (about 12 million citizens, almost 20 million adding to those of 50) vaccinated before the end of June.
The key: let the doses arrive
The last two targets are 25 million in July and 33 million (70% of the population) in August. They are subject to the deliveries of the third quarter of 2021, Sánchez mentioned the 87 million until September (Curevac and Novavax remain to be reviewed). Something “ambitious”, according to Forcada, because also “summer is not the best time to vaccinate due to the availability of human resources, and each community will make its decisions”, but possible depending on the factors mentioned and the availability of vials.
During the first part of the year all the companies have had delays, although the one that has reduced their forecasts the most, by half, has been AstraZeneca. Professionals insist that the key is to get doses. “The big problem so far to go at the right pace,” says Amós García Rojas, president of the Spanish Association of Vaccination and one of the signatories of the national strategy, “is not the capacity of the professionals, although they are exhausted. These are the doses received, so far below the expected, normalized and contracted. If it normalizes, there will be an acceleration. And it is normalizing. ”