The Minister of the Presidency and government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, warned the Spanish government that the 0.2% deficit limit that applies to Spain’s autonomous communities is insufficient, “particularly given that the central government will reach 10%”, and called for the deficit ceiling for regional governments to be increased to 10%. Budó also reiterated a call for “surpluses generated by municipalities to remain in their hands rather than going to the state”, arguing that this would help municipalities mitigate the effects of the pandemic. In reference to the €16bn fund announced by Prime Minister Sánchez to support economic and social recovery in Spain’s autonomous communities, she noted that the Catalan government currently estimates that tackling the Covid-19 crisis will require an extra €4bn in spending.
Commenting on the weekly meeting between President Torra, other regional presidents and Prime Minister Sánchez, the spokesperson said: “This was the eighth meeting of regional presidents where we already knew what measures would be announced because the PM had talked about them the previous day.”
Budó said President Torra had urged the prime minister not to extend the state of alarm, to exclude Catalonia, or to make the Catalan government the competent authority. The president also called for Catalonia’s competencies to be reinstated so that the Catalan government can manage the lockdown exit process (based on health regions and basic health areas); urged the PM to approve a universal basic income and to suspend taxes and provide aid for the self-employed; and cautioned against lifting lockdown measures too quickly. “We shouldn’t be locked into a predefined calendar,” Budó said.
According to the spokesperson, the proposals put forward by the Catalan government are not part of “a partisan or political battle. It’s not a competition. Many of Spain’s autonomous communities are now calling for the same things we are.”
Budó also commented on the fact that Catalans were able to go outdoors to engage in sports activities and go for walks on the weekend. She gave a positive assessment of this new phase of the lockdown exit, noting that most people had acted appropriately, but she also said there had been some reckless behaviour and stressed the importance of everyone acting responsibly to minimise the risk of further lockdowns.
Emergency economic support plan
The Catalan government has presented a €60m emergency plan aimed at providing economic support for workers (including the self-employed), at-risk groups, SMEs and social enterprises hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Update from health minister
The Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, said it was essential to ease lockdown measures by health region because the Catalan public health system is organised based on these territorial units and this approach would facilitate monitoring of the evolution of the epidemic.
The health minister said the best way to ensure a return to normalcy as soon as possible is to ensure “real containment” in the coming weeks by taking social distancing and preventative measures to prevent a resurgence, stressing that the risk level remains high.
Vergés also reported that the Ministry of Health has conducted 302,000 PCR tests and is increasing the number being conducted in care homes for the elderly, where 52,000 tests have been performed to date.
Finally, the minister said a software application is being developed to identify and monitor the contacts of people who have tested positive so that appropriate measures can be taken if these contacts test positive or need to be isolated.