March 17, 2020
Europe is the epicenter of coronavirus, and Spain now has the second most cases in Europe, with more than 2,000 new cases in 24 hours and the number of deaths doubled. We’ll go to Madrid for an update, where more than half of the country’s cases have been reported. This comes as the Spanish government announced it is nationalizing hospitals and private healthcare companies to better manage the pandemic. We are joined by María Carrión, a freelance journalist and former Democracy Now! producer who is also executive director of FiSahara and co-founder of Nomads HRC, which focus on human rights in Western Sahara.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Spain, which is now the second European country to impose a nationwide lockdown, after 2,000 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours and the number of deaths doubled. Spain now has the second most cases in Europe after Italy, the fourth highest number worldwide, with more than 11,000 infections and nearly 500 deaths. Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska announced the country was shutting down to slow the spread of coronavirus.
FERNANDO GRANDE–MARLASKA: [translated] From 0100 GMT this evening and until the declaration of the state of emergency is concluded, only Spanish citizens, residents in Spain, cross-border workers and those who prove force majeure or situation of extreme poverty will be allowed to enter national territory by land.
AMY GOODMAN: As the European Union prepares to vote on a proposal to shut all external borders and impose a 30-day continent-wide foreign travel ban, Portugal has already suspended all passenger air and rail traffic with neighboring Spain until April 15th. At the border checkpoints, Spain is now allowing only Spaniards, residents of Spain, cross-border workers and diplomats to enter the country.
JOSE LUIS: [translated] They are only asking for identification, the national card, nothing else. They should test us for fever, because, at the end, it’s a checkpoint, but just for identification.
AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the Spanish government announced it’s nationalizing hospitals and private healthcare companies to better manage the pandemic. Over the weekend, the Spanish people came outside to cheer medical workers in the streets as the country prepared to shut down. And the Spanish government has just announced a moratorium on mortgage payments and guarantee that basic services — that’s water, gas, electricity — will not be shut off for nonpayment during the crisis.
For more, we go to Madrid, Spain, where we’re joined by María Carrión, freelance journalist, former Democracy Now! producer, also executive director of FiSahara and co-founder of Nomads HRC, which focuses on human rights in Western Sahara.
María, it’s great to have you with us. I talked to you just after the shutdown of your country. Why don’t you just take us through it? We only have a few minutes. But what happened this weekend, after you had last weekend, International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of women marching in the streets? And then, this past Sunday, tell us what the government did.
MARÍA CARRIÓN: Well, the government of Spain decreed a state of emergency. And it’s not the ordinary state of emergency for natural disasters. It goes beyond. It gives the government, the central government, extraordinary powers. It has taken control of basically police, health facilities and both public and private initiatives. It has taken control of all of that in order to manage the crisis. So, as you said in the lede, that includes a temporary nationalization of the private healthcare sector.
We are now confined to our homes. There’s just a few exceptions. And it’s what’s happening basically in every country that’s shutting down. So we’re allowed to go get basic things like food, to go take care of dependents, to go — we can go to our jobs if our jobs cannot be contained inside homes and we cannot work remotely. You can obviously go to the drugstore, the pharmacy, and you can also go to the doctor if it’s very important. People have actually cleared the streets. Spain is now a ghost country, in a sense. You hardly see anyone on the street unless they’re going to their jobs. The weekend was especially illustrative of this, because most people were home anyway. On Monday, yesterday, you saw a few more people out in the streets and on the trains commuting to work. But the streets have definitely cleared out.
Four ministries are now in charge of managing the crisis: the Health Ministry, which is basically appropriating private facilities, as well, to manage — and resources, to manage the crisis; the Interior Ministry, which is kind of like homeland security and the FBI in the United States, now controlling all police forces, including autonomous regional police forces in the Basque Country and in Catalonia; the Defense Ministry, which has put basically the military installations and personnel at the disposal of central government for this; and the Transportation Ministry, which handles public transportation and decides how much of it shuts down, and also highways and roads, that obviously have to be managed, as well, because most of us cannot go anywhere.