6. Measures in other sectors
6.1 Measures in other sectors
Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.
Companies and workers
On April 21, among the measures to support and protect the Economy and Employment, the RD 15/2020 issues the preference for remote working, when possible, as well as reduced working hours for two more months, once lockdown is over (Decree-Law 15/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4554).
On May 8, the Spanish Government, Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations reached an agreement to extend the ERTE mechanism until June 30. Since those companies that applied for an ERTE whose contracts were temporarily suspended as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, are obliged to admit all the employees back to work once the force majeure circumstances are over, the agreement aims at encouraging the restart of the activity allowing the temporary reduction of the number of working hours. Additionally, the agreement foresees that those companies larger than 50 employees benefiting from an ERTE will not be allowed to pay dividends to their stakeholders. Notably, those companies registered in “tax havens” will not be allowed to use the ERTE mechanism (Royal Decree 18/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4959).
On June 23, the Secretariat of State for Trade published a resolution regarding the agreement of the Sectoral Conference on Internal Trade on health guidelines and recommendations for the exercise of commercial activity. Measures agreed will be aligned with transition measures imposed during the state of alarm affecting businesses and clients’ safety, workers as well as specific additional measures for non-sedentary sales (https://boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6612).
On June 25, the Ministries of Labour and Social Economy and of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration reached an agreement with Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations to extend those ERTE mechanisms caused by force majeure until September 30. Self-employed workers, who were entitled to extraordinary unemployment benefits until June 30, will be exempted to pay Social Security contributions in July (100%), August (50%) and September (25%) (Royal Decree Law 24/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6838).
On September 30, the Government has approved a new extension to the ERTE mechanism caused by force majeure due to COVID-19, up until December 30, after reaching an agreement on social and fiscal benefits for companies and self-employed workers with Trade Unions and Employers' Organizations (Royal Decree Law 30/2020 https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/09/30/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-11416.pdf).
Given that many of the COVID-19 outbreaks have been related to temporary workers in the agricultural sector, on August 3, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture presented a guide to the autonomous communities to prevent and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in this sector. The document states that companies (that is, land owners and/or farmers) are responsible for taking measures to limit chains of transmission and have to adapt their prevention plans to include all the organizational, technical, training and informative measures to assure prevention and control of the transmission. The guide also recommends setting up stable gangs (groups of workers) for working and for living, and companies have to have a register of all the hired workers, their phone, working gang and lodging. In addition, workers with any symptom compatible with COVID-19 should not go to work before being medical assessed, neither workers that have been in close contact with infected people and it should be guaranteed that those workers who tested positive can be isolated in a single room (https://www.mscbs.gob.es/gabinete/notasPrensa.do?id=5020).
On September 23, a Royal Decree-Law regulating teleworking was published. Despite that teleworking working implemented due to COVID-19 causes will keep being regulated by the ordinary law, companies will have to provide those employees working remotely with the required devices, equipment, tools, as well as their maintenance (Royal Decree 28/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-11043; Royal Decree Law 29/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-11415).
On September 23, the plan “MECUIDA” was extended until January 31 2021. This plan allows the reduction of working hours to care for spouse, common law partner or second degree relatives due to COVID-19 causes related to age, disease or disability (Royal Decree 28/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-11043).
On April 15, the Ministry of Education along with regional education authorities (Conferencia Sectorial de Educación) agreed some guidelines (regions adherence is not compulsory) for the third term of the current school year and the start of the next one, as follows: back to face-to-face learning is not assured and seems unlikely; the syllabus is assumed not to be covered in this course; promotion to a higher grade will be the general rule for primary, secondary and vocational education, although teachers have to maintain the continuous assessment of the learning process; there will be an effort to identify vulnerable students that require further teaching support; and the next course, education centres will arrange specific plans to adjust the syllabus covering potential learning gaps (Order EFP/365/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4609).
On April 22, it was announced that the nation-wide examination process to access college will take place along the period from June 22 to July 10, far later from usual dates. The exams have been specifically adapted to mitigate the effects of the lockdown on high-school students’ learning process during the third term (Order PCM/362/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4576).
Territories at stage 2, are allowed to restart face-to-face teaching at primary, secondary and high school. Each autonomous community is entitled to make decisions on the scope and breadth of implementation. Attendance will, in any case, be voluntary; so, online education will be maintained (RD 537/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5243; Order SND 440/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5265).
Other learning centres, such as academies or driving schools, are allowed to resume face-to-face activities up to one third of their turnout. Nevertheless, online learning activities have to be prioritized, when possible (Order SND 440/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5265).
On June 11, The Ministry of Education and the autonomous communities agreed to prioritize face-to-face learning for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. All the regions (excluding Madrid and the Basque Country) have adhered the proposal by the Ministry of Education that outlines guidance on how to reinforce learning deficits caused by the suspension of learning activities and reduce the observed digital divide in more disadvantaged households (Press note https://www.educacionyfp.gob.es/prensa/actualidad/2020/06/20200611-conferenciasectorial.html; Order EFP/561/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6685).
In addition, the Ministries of Education and Health have developed a working document with those hygienic and safety measures to be implemented in the education centres in the next course. The document, that will be further discussed with the regional education authorities, assumes that physical distancing measures are not feasible until fourth grade of elementary school (i.e., children under 10) so that groups will be reduced up to 20 students. From fifth grade of elementary school on, 1.5m distance between desks will be mandatory. When physical distancing cannot be assured, students will wear face masks (Press note https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/serviciosdeprensa/notasprensa/educacion/Paginas/2020/100620-educacion_sanidad.aspx).
On August 27, the Ministries of Health, Education and Territorial Policy, together with regional representatives of health and education departments, agreed a set of measures and recommendations for a safe reopening of schools (https://www.mscbs.gob.es/gabinetePrensa/notaPrensa/pdf/27.08270820185900247.pdf). Those overarching measures and recommendations are to be adapted and implemented by the regional education authorities according to the regional specificities. According to these measures, face-to-face learning will be prioritised until 2nd ESO grade (14 years old). Students will take health education classes and will have to hand washing five times per day at least. In order to limit contacts, face masks will be mandatory from students aged 6 and older. In school transport, masks wearing is also advisable for children between 3 and 5. Interpersonal distance of 1.5 meter must be maintained, excluding for children below 8 years old, which will be set up in stable “bubble groups” of 20 pupils max. Students will also have a fixed seat at the school transport and at the school canteen. Cleaning will be intensified and the facilities will have to be ventilated at least 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning and at the end of the day and during the break and, if possible, between class periods. Students and staff will have their temperature checked at the beginning of the day and will be mandatory to stay at home in case they have any compatible symptoms with Covid-19. Every centre will appoint a Covid-19 responsible and the regional departments of education and health will create groups to coordinate and monitor the pandemic response. In case of having any COVID-19 case at school, control and prevention measures will be taken upon the guidance published by the Ministry of Health, available here: https://www.mscbs.gob.es/profesionales/saludPublica/ccayes/alertasActual/nCov/documentos/Guia_actuacion_centros_educativos.pdf.
On April 28, the government issued additional legislation aiming at managing the post-COVID action for the administration of justice since, with the sole exception of judiciary procedures aiming to guarantee the Constitutional rights, the lockdown had led to the suspension of all procedural deadlines (Decree-Law 16/2020 https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/04/29/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4705.pdf; https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/08/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4882.pdf).
As of June 4, procedural deadlines, suspended by the Royal Decree 463/2020, are no longer suspended (RD 537/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5243).
Professional sports training and national sport competitions
On May 6, the Sports Council (the highest governmental decision body on sports) released the transition protocol for federated and professional competitions, which includes four stages: enabling 1) basic individual training, 2) small group training, 3) full pre-competition training, and 4) the resumption of sport competitions. In any case, progression will depend on the de-escalation stage at which the specific territory is (https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/06/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4837.pdf).
On May 11, and as an addition to the current land borders closure measures from May 10 to May 24, the Ministry for Home Affairs issued the temporary reintroduction of air and sea border control from May 15 to May 24. Only Spanish citizens or residents with regular residence in Spain, as well as cross-border workers, healthcare workers or people with proven causes of force majeure will be allowed to enter the country by air or sea (Order INT/401/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4929; https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/reintroduction-border-control_en).
Unlike past regulation, on May 23, Spanish borders closure for non-essential travels was extended for land, air and sea, until the end of the “state of alarm” (Order SND/439/2020, https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5264, SND 521/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6107).
From June 21, Spain has reopened its borders to countries of the EU and Schengen area and the United Kingdom. As an exception, the Portuguese border will remain closed until July 1 (Order INT/550/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6508).
People travelling to Spain by air or sea will have to fulfil the Passenger Location Card, which includes information about whether they have suffered from COVID-19 as well as details on their exact location during their stay in the country. In addition, all passengers will be subject to visual checks and thermal cameras at their arrival to the airports in the country (RD 23/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6621; https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6927; https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-8006). From July 1 onwards, travellers from other countries will be allowed to travel to Spain without the need to self-quarantine once they are in the country, if a reciprocal agreement on travelling is in place (Order INT/551/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6509).
As from July 1, residents from 15 additional countries will be allowed to enter in Spain. The list of countries has been agreed by the Council of the European Union, taking into account their epidemiological situation (e.g. number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100 000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average, a stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period and a proper overall response to COVID-19), as well as per a reciprocity criteria. The list of countries allowed to enter the EU will be reviewed and updated every two weeks (Order INT/578/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6902; https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/06/30/council-agrees-to-start-lifting-travel-restrictions-for-residents-of-some-third-countries/; Order INT/595/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-7140).
As of July 22, cross-border and seasonal workers (from countries other than the EU or Schengen area) are not allowed to enter the country.
In addition, the list of third countries whose residents are allowed to enter Spain has been updated, with Serbia and Montenegro being excluded in this update. Moreover, only residents in permitted countries travelling directly from their country of residence will be allowed to enter (Order INT/657/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-8099; Order INT/734/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-8847; Order INT/805/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-10046; Order INT/851/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-10726).
The Penitentiary System is gradually resuming the normal functioning of prisons by allowing prisoners’ regular communications, prisoners’ transfers, educational, cultural and sport activities as well as the restitution of prisoners’ benefits derived from their procedural situation (Order INT/407/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4960).
As of May 20, the Ministry of Health has ordered the Migration Office to automatically extend for 6 months all temporary residence and/or work permits, authorisations for study stays, apprenticeships and permits for voluntary work, in those cases in which the decree of the state of alarm impeded their renewal or for those permits whose expiration date is affected by the successive extensions of the state of alarm (Order SND/421/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5141).
On May 29, a minimum income scheme aiming to help 850,000 vulnerable families (2.3 million people) was approved. This policy, a cornerstone in the coalition agreement between the social democrats (PSOE) and leftist UNIDAS-PODEMOS which conform the current Spanish Government, has been brought forward because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the most vulnerable.
The foreseen income for individuals, due to start in June, will vary from EUR 461 to EUR 1,015, depending on the household needs, for a total cost for the Spanish Treasury of EUR 3 billion per year (Royal Decree 20/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5493; https://www.mscbs.gob.es/ssi/covid19/ingresoMinVital/home.htm).
As of June 15, temporary restrictions on internal borders will be partially lifted to allow 47 touristic flights from Germany to enter the Balearic Islands. In this pilot test on safe tourism (Programa piloto de apertura de corredores turísticos seguros), all passengers will be subject to health controls upon arrival. Air companies should provide the Balearic health authorities with the Passenger Location Card to enable tracing if needed (Order SND/518/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6024; Order ICT/534/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-6307).
On June 17, the Spanish Government presented a plan to promote safe and sustainable tourism. The plan, worth EUR 4,262 million, develops on five major pillars: recovering the confidence in Spain as a safe destination, measures to reactivate the sector, increasing competitiveness, enhancing the tourist sector capacity to monitor demand needs and its performance, and improving marketing and promotion (https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/serviciosdeprensa/notasprensa/industria/Documents/2020/20062020_PlanTurismo.pdf; Royal Decree Law 25/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-7311).
Travellers coming to Spain by air have to fill in a Health Control Form which can be accessed from the link https://www.spth.gob.es/ or by downloading the app from the same website. They must complete the form and send it out to the health authorities up until 48 hours before the flight is scheduled; then, travellers receive an email with a QR Code that needs to be shown to access the destination airport (https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-8750).
Science and Innovation
On July 6, the government included some provisions to exploit, through public-private partnership mechanisms, the outputs and results (e.g. drugs, medical devices, equipment, models, prototypes, systems or engineering processes) stemming from the projects financed with public funds to give response to the COVID-19 crisis (Royal Decree Law 25/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-7311).
The Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCIII) and the Institute of Health Sciences in Aragon (IACS) are taking part in the Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) project. PHIRI aims at developing an infrastructure to reinforce and improve a safe exchange of population and individual health data that can support research and policy decisions regarding the COVID-19 public health crisis. PHIRI will conduct research on a few relevant use cases focusing on selected aspects of vulnerable population groups and risk factors, delayed medical care in cancer, perinatal health outcomes, and mental health outcomes. This use cases are expected to produce evidence produced to inform and guide policy on tackling COVID-19 and future pandemics (https://www.isciii.es/Noticias/Noticias/Paginas/Noticias/ProyectoPhiriInfraestructurasCOVID19.aspx).
Some of the benefits approved during the state of alarm have been extended until the end of September. That is, tenants are able to ask for a 6-month extension of their rental contracts for primary residences; tenants in vulnerable situation can request a delay in their rental payments as long as the delay does not imply burdensome losses for the owners; mortgage payments can be delayed for three additional months; and, energy provision (that is, electricity, heating oil, gas) and water supply cannot be cut off under any circumstance (Royal Decree Law 26/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-7432; https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/consejodeministros/resumenes/Paginas/2020/070720-cministros.aspx).
After the “state of alarm” was declared on 14 March (Royal Decree 463/2020 https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3692), Spanish security forces and law enforcement agencies, as well as the regional and local police came under the direct command of the Minister for Home Affairs. The Minister can request the intervention of the armed forces if needed to enforce laws.
In turn, on 16 March, the country's land borders were closed to anyone other than residents (https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4064), and on 22 March, this restriction was also applied to airports and ports in accordance with European Commission policy (https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2020/03/22/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-3972.pdf). Hence, only Spaniards or residents are allowed to enter the country if they are able to prove that they are returning to their place of residence.
On 20 April, the Ministry for Home Affairs has issued an extension of borders’ closure until 15 May, following the recommendations of the European Commission to the European Parliament and the EU Council (Order INT/356/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4539).
Once the “state of alarm” was issued on 14 March (Royal Decree 463/2020), the recommendation has been enhanced and both private and public nation-wide operators are obliged to reduce public transport by at least 50% of their usual capacity. This reduction has no direct application to public transport under regional and local public entities, who are expected to decide the level of reductions, taking into account the appropriate coverage of essential services and the specific evolution of the epidemic in their territories. All operators have to implement protection measures for their personnel and physical distancing policies within the vehicles (Order TMA/263/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3947 and Order TMA/292/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4128).
Companies and workers
Since 11 March, COVID-19 infections were catalogued as a “work accident”. This way, workers who are on sick leave because of the infection are covered by social security funds from the very first day, getting a sick pay for an amount equivalent to 75% of their taxable income (Decree-Law 6/2020, https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3434).
Since 17 March, work should be undertaken remotely if possible. Moreover, flexibility and reducing working hours is allowed for those workers who have to look after relatives. In order to avoid layoffs, businesses are allowed to adopt measures to adjust their activity, such as the temporary suspension of contracts (known as ERTE, in Spanish) and/or reducing the number of working days (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824). On April 15, the Minister of Labour, Migration and Social Security informed that almost 4 million people (16% of the active population) have endured a temporary suspension of their contracts and will take advantage of the benefits foreseen within the ERTE mechanisms (http://prensa.mitramiss.gob.es/WebPrensa/noticias/ministro/detalle/3776).
Those workers (including domestic service) temporarily suspended or those whose income has been severely damaged due to the COVID-19 crisis are entitled to get unemployment benefits for 1 month-time, even if they were not entitled in regular circumstances (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824; Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208). On April 17, 919,173 self-employed workers will receive this benefit, which represents an extraordinary expenditure of EUR 670.9 millions (http://prensa.mitramiss.gob.es/WebPrensa/noticias/seguridadsocial/detalle/3777).
From 30 March to 9 April, the lockdown was tightened and all non-essential activities have been stopped during that period. Workers (except those who are able to work remotely or with suspended contracts) will be considered to be under “recoverable leave”, meaning that they will continue to receive their salary and will recover the missed hours when the lockdown is over (Decree-Law 10/2020 https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4166).
Temporary workers who have become unemployed after the lockdown was declared, and were not entitled to unemployment benefits, will be granted an extraordinary benefit of EUR 440 (Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208).
In turn, self-employed workers will benefit from a six-month extension to the deadlines to pay taxes and postpone debt payments to the Social Security Administration. Moreover, they can modify energy supply contracts and adjourn their payments if their activity has been suspended or have endured a significant income reduction due to the “state of alarm” (Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208, updated by a resolution by the General Treasury of Social Security https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4380).
In addition, self-employed workers and small and medium enterprises are benefiting from a bank guarantee issued by the Official Credit Institute (in Spanish, Instituto de Crédito Oficial) (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824; and resolution by the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and Business Support https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4414). This credit amounts for a total of EUR 60,000 million, from which 71% is devoted to self-employed workers and SMEs (RD 15/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4554).
Finally, force majeure or economic causes, which are frequent arguments to justify layoffs, cannot be used as an argument for workforce adjustments while the crisis is active. In any case, healthcare centres, and social centres caring for the older population, dependent or disabled people are not allowed to implement labour adjustments during the current period (Decree-law 9/2020 https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4152; RD 15/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4554).
By 8 April, a Royal Decree issued measures to enhance temporary hiring of land workers so as to guarantee agricultural activity during the state of alarm; thus, unemployed, people who endured a temporary cessation of employment due to the state of alarm, and migrant workers whose working permit was about to expire after lockdown may benefit from this new regulation. For example, some unemployment subsidies have been made compatible with these temporary contracts or migration permits have been extended (RD 13/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4332). On May 27, the government extended the duration of the special measures on agricultural employment until September 30 (https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/27/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-5315.pdf).
On April 18, the Secretary for Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises set up the legal basis for the development of a technological platform which will facilitate information to the companies on those manufacturers producing or distributing protection equipment for their workforce. Likewise, the platform collects the potential demand of protection equipment so as to ease acquisition and distribution planning and logistics (https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/04/18/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4519.pdf).
On April 21, the Government included additional complementary measures aimed at the financial and social protection of vulnerable population subgroups such as seasonal employees, self-employed farmers, trial-period workers that got unemployed as a consequence of the state of alarm or researchers enjoying a pre-doctoral contract within public research institutions (RD 15/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4554).
On April 28, the government updated previous legislation extending regular bankruptcy terms for self-employed individuals and companies, enabling one year deferral (RD https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/04/29/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4705.pdf).
On 12 March, the Spanish Government earmarked EUR 25 million to the Autonomous Communities to guarantee meals to vulnerable children who used to use school canteen services, which are currently closed (Decree-Law 7/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3580).
Regarding home education support, the Ministry of Education is compiling on-line resources, tools and apps for teachers, students and families to promote e-learning at the website (https://aprendoencasa.educacion.es/). In order to address IT access inequalities, the Ministry is broadcasting special TV programmes from Monday to Friday (since 23 March for students aged 6 to 16 who do not have any IT equipment or have no internet access at home (“Aprendemos en casa”, in Spanish) (ttps://www.educacionyfp.gob.es/prensa/actualidad/2020/03/20200321-mefprtve.html). In addition, on 30 March, the Ministry of Education sent out up to 20,000 SIM cards to the Autonomous Communities to be distributed among High School and vocational training students with IT access barriers. Likewise, WEBEX licences were handed out to allow video-conference sessions between teachers and students (https://www.educacionyfp.gob.es/prensa/actualidad/2020/03/20200330-tarjetasdatos.html).
On 17 March, EUR 300 million were earmarked to be transferred to the Autonomous Communities to reinforce the protection of vulnerable people, most of them assisted through social services. This contingency fund allocated to the Ministry for Social Rights aims at providing essential care, support, safety and food to the older population, dependent and disabled people affected by the closure of social centres, such as day care centres or soup kitchens, reinforcing tele- and homecare, and assuring basic services to homeless people. In most regions, public facilities have been set up to allocate these services during this crisis (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824).
In the context of the so-called, “National Agreement on Domestic Violence”, between the Spanish Government and the Autonomous Communities, the RDL 12/2020 has issued a package of measures aimed at improving budget implementation to enhance assistance and protection for victims of domestic violence (Decree-Law 12/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4209).
Mortgage payments of those finding themselves in difficult financial circumstances as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis (including self-employed people) are suspended (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824; Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208; Order TMA/336/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4412). In addition, evictions affecting vulnerable people are suspended, rental contracts for primary residences have been automatically extended for the next 6 months and tenants in vulnerable situations can request an extension to pay any rent arrears - and can access public microcredits to help them pay (Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208). In addition, during the “state of alarm”, the provision of energy (electricity, heating oil, gas) and water supply is considered essential, and supply cannot be cut off for any reason (Decree-Law 11/2020 https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4208); likewise, telecommunication companies cannot suspend the service (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824; Decree-Law 19/2020, article 3, https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/27/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-5315.pdf).
Science and Innovation
Extraordinary credits have been granted to increase the budget of scientific institutions within the Ministry of Science and Innovation, in particular, to the Institute for Health Carlos III (ISCIII) and the National Research Council (CSIC) for a total of EUR 30 million. These funds cover studies on the epidemiological follow up of the COVID-19 crisis and direct grants to carry out COVID-19 research projects (Decree-Law 8/2020 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3824).
On April 16, 15 projects (out of the 1,300 applications to a special COVID-19 nation-wide research call) have been granted with EUR 4.6 million for the discovery of new treatments and diagnostic techniques (https://www.mscbs.gob.es/gabinete/notasPrensa.do?id=4864).
In turn, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Products (AEMPS) has joined “Solidarity”, the international clinical trial fostered by WHO. In addition, the AEMPS has authorised 32 clinical trials to treat more than 26,000 patients in hospitals all over the country (https://reec.aemps.es/reec/public/web.html) and 42 post-marketing observational studies. Finally, the National Centre of Biotechnology is carrying out two projects aiming at the development of a COVID-19 vaccine (https://www.mscbs.gob.es/gabinete/notasPrensa.do?id=4864).
On April 21, the Spanish Government issued an additional provision aimed at providing financial support to science and technological parks to pay or refinance their loan obligations (Decree-Law 15/2020 https://boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2020-4554).
Deployment of military resources
Since 15 March, the armed forces are permanently available for any action stemming from the “state of alarm” (Instruction March 15 https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3693).
Besides action related to the enforcement of law, the Ministry of Defence is supporting the Ministry of Social Rights in their orders to protect homeless people and shanty towns (Instruction 16 March https://boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-3781) and the Ministry of Health in the deployment of field hospitals and any auxiliary services (e.g. patients transport, disinfection and cleaning).
On May 6, the Spanish Government issued a bundle of measures for an amount of EUR 780 million to improve the financing of the cultural sector and provide unemployment benefits to workers (Royal Decree 17/2020 https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/06/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4832.pdf; https://boe.es/boe/dias/2020/05/20/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-5138.pdf; Royal Decree 19/2020 https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2020-5315).