The Spanish government, as had been expected, has decided to extend the state of alarm by a further two weeks (to 26 April). The decision was made on Saturday following the meetings of the scientific and crisis management committees.
The leader of the Partido Popular opposition, Pablo Casado, has tweeted to say that he has received a call from Prime Minister Sánchez informing him of the decision. He has given the prime minister the support of the PP for measures to contain the virus, adding that "loyalty and unity demand effectiveness and transparency".
The extension will require the support of Congress, which is expected to convene (with a very limited number of deputies) on Tuesday.
Speaking on Saturday afternoon, the prime minister said: "We need to maintain the measures for two more weeks. I understand how difficult it is in these times when our patience is being tested; the most difficult days of our lives."
He warned that lack of unity now would risk there being a second wave, adding that once the curve of the contagion goes down, "a new scenario will open, the progressive return to a new social normality and reconstruction of our economy". "We will have to put in place a genuine Marshall Plan for reconstruction. Europe has to learn a lesson, and it cannot fail this time. It is time for Europe to protect Europeans in the face of this calamity that we are suffering."
Referring to the "terrible death toll", the prime minister added that there could be celebration of the very high proportion of patients being discharged, thanks to the "enormous collective effort". Victory is coming closer every day, "we are in a situation of bending the curve", but the final victory will only come with a vaccine or effective treatment that will still take a few months.
The Constitution, he explained, allows for an extension every fifteen days, "but it is obvious that the exceptional measures will last longer. In three weeks they will not be over, but neither will we have the same state of alarm. We will see the results, we will begin to recover spaces of social relationship".
"It will not finish at the end of April. There will be more days of a state of alarm, but we will begin the transition and take the path of social and economic recovery. We will do it with caution. We cannot allow ourselves to take one step back."
After 26 April, while there be "more days of alarm", the prime minister expects that things "will be different and that part of economic and social life will begin to recover", with a return to the situation prior to the most recent restrictions, which reduced economic activity to essential services. The government anticipates that the economic "hibernation" will end after Easter and will return to the previous state of alarm, as long as the health situation does not suffer a setback.
The government does not therefore intend extending the suspension of non-essential activities beyond the period for which it was decreed, which ends on 9 April. These activities may be resumed after the Easter holidays.