TACOMA, Washington — Since the Spanish government announced the first case of COVID-19 in Spain on January 30, 2020, the number of infections has increased exponentially. To mitigate the virus’s impact, political leaders enacted sanitary measures and imposed restrictions on economic activity. These restrictions have held back development, escalated unemployment and reduced family income. As such, many Spanish citizens are now at risk of or have already fallen into poverty. The National Institute of Statistics (INE) predicts an increase of 6.3% in the poverty rate from the country’s pre-pandemic level of 25%.
Impacts and Mitigative Measures
- Public policies: The government’s priority is to strengthen the healthcare system so that it can treat a greater number of patients with the appropriate equipment. In addition, the government has dedicated increased funds to the scientific sector so that it can create solutions to the crisis.
- Economic measures: Spain also seeks to regenerate its economy as soon as possible. Therefore, to keep the country moving as much as possible, the central government is the guarantor of basic services such as electricity, water, gas and telecommunications for families affected by COVID-19 in Spain. Moreover, the government allocated 1.7% of its GDP to direct aid for families, workers and employers.
- Employment measures: Working at home is highly encouraged to avoid any contact with other colleagues. However, once lockdowns took hold, several companies and small businesses lacked sufficient funds to maintain their personnel. The market shift resulted in the suspension of contracts and the reduction of working hours.
- Lockdown: The authorities reacted to COVID-19 in Spain by declaring a State of Emergency, followed by an indefinite lockdown. The government loosened the lockdown in early fall 2020, but in October, after cases had begun to spike again, it decreed a new lockdown before the second wave hit. This second State of Emergency will remain in effect until May.
- Vaccination plan: The Spanish vaccination campaign began on December 27, 2020, with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
Each autonomous community receives 350,000 weekly doses. The number of vaccines assigned to a community is proportionate to the number of vulnerable people residing in it. Healthcare authorities provide containers that reach -70-degrees Celsius, as well to ensure the safe delivery and use of vaccine supplies.
From January to February, the first vaccination stage reached more than two million people. Elders residing in assisted-living homes and healthcare personnel were the first ones to receive it. From February to June, authorities are distributing the vaccine to broader groups in order to achieve herd immunity. This second phase targets those with health risks, teaching staff, children and young people.
However, inoculation efforts are rolling out slower than expected. There are not enough nurses and trained healthcare personnel to manage the number of patients assigned in order to slow down the contagion risk of COVID-19 in Spain. Thus, authorities have implemented new restrictions to protect the population from the fast-spreading variant.
Overall, Spain has tried to strengthen day-to-day health and economic measures to protect the population and act proactively against any further viral complications. However, taking action against the pandemic is an international affair. COVID-19 in Spain requires a collaborative effort from nations who face the same challenge to truly solve the crisis.
– Paola Arriaza Avilés