Is Spain doing enough to control coronavirus spread?

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Is Spain doing enough to control coronavirus spread?
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On Wednesday, Spaniards were issued with a harsh warning. Even if measures being taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus were successful, we are looking at a period of two months before it is brought under control.


Even as he outlined this scenario, Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s health emergencies’ committee admitted that such an optimistic outcome was considered “highly unlikely”.

Instead, “in the worst case scenario it could last between four to five months”.

This warning came as the number of cases soared to 2,109 on Thursday morning with the number of fatalities from the COVID-19 being recorded at 49.

LATEST: Madrid residents urged to 'stay at home' as Spain's coronavirus death toll leaps to 84

So is Spain doing enough?

There has been widespread criticism, not least to those on the right of the political spectrum, to go ahead with the mass demonstrations called for Women’s Day last Sunday, March 8th.

Women's Day on March 8th drew crowds to the streets of Madrid. Photo: AFP

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets to march under the feminist banner in cities across Spain after authorities insisted there was no public health issue in going ahead with the gatherings.

With the advice of frequent hand washing and staying at home if you have symptoms, life carried on as normal even as Italy moved forward with quarantining outbreak zones and then shutting down the country entirely.

But within a day of the mass Women’s Day demonstrations, authorities in Spain announced closures of schools in outbreak areas, and issued the advice to work from home where possible.

Just four days later and people from Madrid are being asked to curb non-essential travel to other regions – a measure being widely ignored by parents with young children who want to decamp to holiday homes and students who would rather head back to their families than risk isolation in student digs.

The latest high profile cases include several lawmakers including equality minister Irene Montero, who attended the women’s day march in Madrid. Both her and her partner, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias are now in quarantine.


She is just the latest parliamentarian to be diagnosed. Earlier in the week general secretary of the far-right Vox party tested positive, two days after greeting supporters at a party rally in Vistalegre held as an “alternative” event to the women’s marches.

Ana Pastor, former PP minister and ex-speaker of Congress has also tested positive. All parliamentary sessions have been cancelled.

Regional authorities are imposing their own measures in a bid to restrict the spread of contagion but are still far from adopting the strict measures of the Italian government, where all businesses except for pharmacies and food stores have been closed and people confined to their hopes.  

Madrid authorities have shut down the schools for two weeks, closed sporting facilities and cultural spaces including museums, theatres and concert halls.

Day care centres for the elderly have been shut down and residential homes have put a limit on visitors in a bid to protect the most vulnerable of society.

Madrid was issued with the recommendation that people work from home.

Sporting fixtures will be played in empty stadiums and regional authorities are making case by case decisions on whether to ban events. Valencia has suspended Las Fallas, and Catalonia has banned events drawing crowds of over 1,000 people.

Is it working?

Fernando Simón (R) meets with PM Pedro Sanchez to discuss emergency measures. Photo: AFP

Simón explained that the measures currently introduced should be assessed again within 14 days to see if they have worked.

In Madrid, the streets and public transport are noticeably emptier than usual during rush hour.

But many feel it is a matter of time before travel will have to be restricted not only between regions but abroad too.

Spain is already listed as a danger zone by countries including Israel, Chile and now the US has banned all visitors from Schengen zones in Europe. 

But will Spain take heed of experts insisting more should be done? 

"We are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva,  according to a statement issued on Thursday.

The new coronavirus outbreak "is a  controllable pandemic" if countries step up measures to tackle it, he insisted.

In less than a month, streets across Spain would normally be thronged with crowds huddling together to watch the Semana Santa processions.

Easter parades could pose a public threat. Photo: AFP

And although the pointed face coverings of particpants might offer some sort of protection, who would want to be a member of those brotherhoods responsible for transporting the religious statues through the streets, squashed cheek to cheek by the dozan, shuffling in the confined space below the elaborate floats?

Surely it is a matter of time before Spain has to take the same drastic steps as Italy to curb free movement and social interaction in order to quash the contagion. 



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