A NUMBER of urgent measures have been adopted by the Spanish Government in a bid to protect the public after coronavirus plunged the country into an official ‘state of alarm’.
The moves are aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, maintaining social protection for employees and the self-employed and ensuring the supply and best distribution of medicines and health products.
As such, workers who are infected with COVID-19 or forced into periods of isolation for their own protection, will be eligible for temporary incapacity benefit.
And there is a centralised supply of medical treatments held by the Administration, as a back-up should the provision of medicinal product or medical devices be affected by ‘exceptional supply difficulties’.
The European Council held an extraordinary meeting on March 10, during which Heads of States identified four priorities.
Firstly, to limit the spread of the virus. Members reiterated ‘as a maximum priority’ the health of citizens must be protected, and that all actions be based on scientific and health authority recommendations, with proportionate measures.
Secondly, the consistent supply of medication. It was agreed to entrust the Commission with the analysis of the public’s needs and the implementation of initiatives to avoid a shortage, in collaboration with industry representatives.
Thirdly, the promotion of research, in particular for the development of a vaccine.
And fourthly, deal with the socio-economic consequences. The Union and its Members pledged to make use of all resources to support workers and small businesses.
To respond to these priorities, the European Commission is working on two fronts – sanitary and economic.
On the health front, a number of actions have been announced.
These include the coordination of measures through daily conferences with the Ministers of Health and Interior and the organisation of a team of epidemiologists and virologists from different Member States to propose guidelines at European level.
An inventory of protective equipment and available breathing apparatus is being drawn up, together with an assessment of production and distribution capabilities. And there will be a strengthening of a European initiative to fund specific research on coronavirus, with €140 million of public and private funding for vaccine research, diagnosis and treatment.
And in order to ensure adequate access to medication, the Interministerial Committee on the Price of Medicines may set a maximum amount for the retail sale of medicines and other products.
A Contingency Fund is available to cover the costs incurred for health needs in the Autonomous Communities and to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
On the economical side of things, the EC is coordinating Member States and the European Central Bank to ensure state aid is available to businesses that need it.
The EC has also announced a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, aimed at supporting health care systems, small to medium businesses, workers and the self-employed labour market.
The Spanish Government approved measures on Saturday which means self-employed workers infected with coronavirus, or in forced quarantine will be eligible for financial aid.
The pledge of support is reportedly ‘unlimited’ and will mean that self-employed workers who are forced to stay at home will be considered in the same way as employees on official sick leave by the Department of Social Security.
Employers and people who work on a freelance basis will be able to postpone their Social Security payments for three consecutive months in areas and sectors which will be outlined by the health authorities. The contributions will be deferred for 12 months.