MPs give approval for lockdown extension amid criticism of PM

An MP from the PSOE sits in an almost empty chamber.
An MP from the PSOE sits in an almost empty chamber. / EFE
  • Government refuses to impose tougher restrictions on the population and Sánchez calls for "unity and loyalty" from rivals

The state of alarm was extended in Spain after a parliamentary vote on Wednesday night. It will now last until at least 11 April. The debate was held in a near-deserted chamber with MPs sending in their votes remotely.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was not without criticism though from the MPs for his handling of the health and economic response to the Covid-19 outbreak as the debate unfolded in the evening.

The conservative Partido Popular (PP) leader, Pablo Casado, was particularly hard, leaving behind the air of full support in the initial days of the crisis. The opposition leader accused the government of not "being up to" the effort needed and of "grave negligence" for having allowed International Women's Day marches to go ahead and for not having enough resources, which he said was "unforgivable".

"We are in mourning, this isn't going well," he said, while asking for flags to be flown at half mast, and an eventual state funeral and monument in Madrid.

Despite this, the PP didn't table any amendment to the order to extend the state of alarm to 11 April, ignoring calls from others in the PP to demand a stricter shutdown that went further than the current restrictions.

Most demands for tougher action were coming from the left. Left-wing Catalan republican ERC did ask for stricter measures, especially for Catalonia, but this was rejected. The Catalan president, Quim Torra, has also been calling separately for stricter measures in his region.

In his speech, Sánchez justified his decisions and called for "unity and loyalty" from rival politicians. He said that it was a "very difficult balance", as closing more businesses would endanger people in isolation or recovering from the illness. He did however agree to more scrutiny of the spread by parliament's Health committee.

Public opinion

The debate in parliament came as a survey by the State official polling body, CIS, said that almost 68 per cent of people felt that the government could have done more sooner to restrict movement.

The result was based on fieldwork in the first half of March, before the crisis escalated, and just over 65 per cent said that they support the stronger measures.

Infections at the heart of government continue to make headlines. One of the deputy PMs, Carmen Calvo, was hospitalised this week but later discharged. The second-in-command of the Guardia Civil, Laurentino Ceña has also fallen ill.