Pedro Sánchez has succeeded in securing a further extension to the state of alarm, but he and the government have had to concede that it will only be for fifteen days, having originally sought 35 days.
There was a strong possibility that a 35-day extension would have been rejected by a majority in the Congress. Had this been the case, the state of alarm would have ended on 24 May. As it is, the extension will be until 7 June, with the government having a majority thanks to the backing of Ciudadanos, the PNV Basque Nationalist Party, Coalición Canaria, Más País, Teruel Existe and the PRC Cantabria Regionalist Party. In the end, the voting was 177 in favour and 162 against with eleven abstentions.
Prime Minister Sánchez defended the extension of the confinement, which has been relaxed to varying degrees in different parts of the country, saying that "no one has the right to waste the colossal effort that the Spanish people have made for ten weeks". It has been "an exceptional situation, for which an exceptional solution had to be applied". "It has been necessary in order to save lives and to bend the curve. It has always followed expert advice."
The prime minister came in for some fierce criticism. The leader of the Partido Popular, Pablo Casado, suggested that the government's future was now hanging by the thread because of the negotiations and agreements it has been forced to make in order to secure the extension. In his view, the past ten weeks of extraordinary government powers have been "disastrous". The management has been riddled with "the wrong measures and lies". The prime minister was now like "a headless chicken".
With the new extension, the health minister Salvador Illa will become the sole central government authority. Until now, the defence, interior and transport ministries have shared this authority. But the "single command" will still exist. Sánchez said that regional governments will regain their powers of decision-making, but not just yet. There would be a "chaotic situation" if each region were to decide on ending confinement.
Sánchez hinted that the government may seek yet another extension beyond 7 June.
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