Spain’s Military Emergency Unit has been despatched around Spain to help local civil authorities with disinfection at airports, ports and other key public areas.
A total of 2,622 military personal from various divisions of the UME (Unidad Militar de Emergencias) are undertaking major disinfection tasks at all airports in the Aena network, including Málaga-Costa del Sol, Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat and Alicante-Elche.
Announcing that it had reinforced attention to cleanliness and hygiene at airports, Aena welcomed UME’s presence, “to disinfect the most difficult areas in the airports… We are going to clean all susceptible areas where there is contamination, or possible contamination, in the dirtiest areas where the virus might be accumulating.”
Meanwhile, Spanish public research centres have been working for several weeks on the diagnosis, treatment and creation of vaccines against the new coronavirus, in various projects led by scientists of recognised international standing.
The Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation is maintaining permanent contact with these bodies to mobilise both material and human resources, and to prioritise these lines of research.
Several of the projects have been selected by European funding initiatives set up to deal with the coronavirus, while the Carlos III Institute of Health, managed under the auspices of the ministry, has opened applications to the COVID-19 Fund to finance research projects on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
This €24 million fund was approved in accordance with a Spanish Royal Decree-Law aimed at implementing “urgent and extraordinary measures to tackle the economic and social impact of the new coronavirus”.
Parliament to Decide if Lockdown Should be Extended
In a televised address to the nation on the weekend, following a teleconference with regional leaders, prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the government wanted to extend the “State of Alarm” (also translated as “State of Alert”) for an additional 14 days.
The government decreed the emergency measure on 14 March, and it officially took effect at midnight that same day for 15 days until 29 March. Under the Spanish constitution, the government is required to obtain parliamentary approval for any extension. The Congress of Deputies (lower parliament) is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Wednesday (23 February).
Pablo Casado, leader of the main opposition party (conservative Partido Popular) has previously indicated support for an extension, while other mainstream parties are also believed to be prepared to vote for any measures that help contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
If approved, the shutdown extension will include the Easter break (Good Friday is 10 April). Catholic brotherhoods throughout Andalucía, including Málaga, have already announced they will not hold any of the traditional street processions.
In his address on Sunday, Sánchez (leader of the centrist Socialist Party, currently governing in coalition with the far-left Podemos after the 10 November election) warned people to prepare for a worsening situation over the coming days.
“Unfortunately the number of diagnosed cases is going to rise… The worst is yet to come, and it is pushing our capabilities to the limit”.
Sánchez defended the decision to declare a “State of Alarm”, saying it had “bought time” for the healthcare system to prepare for its response to the outbreak. He stressed that Spain had followed advice by international experts, and been applying the recommended WHO (World Health Organisation) strategy to gain the necessary time to improve the healthcare system’s resistance and capacity, and enable science to find a vaccine.