The Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, announced this Wednesday at a press conference that the Government has closed several contracts in China for the acquisition of medical equipment and protection against the virus for a value of 432 million euros. These purchases include 550 million protective and surgical masks, 5.5 million rapid tests to detect the virus, 11 million gloves and 950 respirators to be distributed to the autonomous communities. “We have closed entire production chains that are going to be working for the Government of Spain,” he assured.
The forecast is that Assisted breathing equipment, essential for the most seriously ill, begins to be distributed between April and June. In addition, the minister explained that the Executive works with the main engineering companies in the country to activate the national production capacity of these devices and thus “not depend on deliveries and supplies from third countries.” At the moment there are already two companies that produce this material in Spain.
As for the masks, the minister explained that they have been obtained through three suppliers, guaranteeing eight weeks of supply. They will be surgical and also respiratory protection, aimed at both patients and healthcare professionals. He has also assured that the Government, to date, has already distributed almost six million masks to the autonomous regions. The quick tests, meanwhile, are scheduled to be delivered during March and April.
“The supply will be made in a staggered manner, weekly. At the end of this week, an important first delivery of these products will be made,” said Illa, who explained that the agreement with China was produced after the call that It took place last week between the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. From there, different ministries such as Industry, Finance or Foreign Affairs have collaborated with Health to close this contract, which “is already paid in full.”
On the other hand, the minister has reiterated that the central government is supporting the “purchase actions” of the autonomous communities and has insisted that “there has been no confiscation of materials at customs.” “We must end these hoaxes that do not help at all,” he said. The President of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, asked Pedro Sánchez this weekend not to prevent the arrival of two planes with supplies that the regional Executive had bought in international markets to combat the coronavirus. This Wednesday she herself has admitted that it is “difficult” to acquire medical supplies outside of Spain.
Illa also insisted during his appearance on the importance of being “in solidarity” with the Community of Madrid, the territory where the virus is most affecting at the moment with 14,597 infected, 1,150 people hospitalized in the ICU and a total of 3,031 deaths since the start of the pandemic. “Today is the time to show solidarity with Madrid, tomorrow with the communities that require it,” he said. Illa has assured that there are several autonomies that have sent respirators and other equipment to Madrid to be able to continue expanding ICU beds and thus care for those infected by the coronavirus.
Regarding the spread of the virus, the minister regretted that the death toll this week will be “very hard” because it is “very likely” that it will continue to increase as we approach the peak of the epidemic, which is the first objective. In any case, he has reiterated that this will not be the end, because afterwards the priority will be to bend the curve and eradicate the virus. “This is being very hard, we understand the pain of all the people who have lost a loved one. We have had to face such an exceptional situation and we all Spaniards do it in the best way that we know, which is working together.”
When asked by journalists, the Minister of Health has avoided evaluating whether it had been a mistake to have allowed massive events such as the protests of March 8. In this sense, he explained that the infections detected in the “late-night” of March 8 had occurred between eight and ten before for the period that elapses between the occurrence of a contagion and this is reported to the health authorities. According to his calculations, therefore, it was in the last week of February when there was a “major contagion” in some parts of Spain, especially in the Community of Madrid.
Precisely this Wednesday a Madrid court has decided to open an investigation after the complaint made by an individual against the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and against all the Government delegates from the different autonomous communities, as well as Ceuta and Melilla, for having allowed those manifestations. The complaint maintains that the Executive did not prohibit “mass gatherings between March 5 and March 14 of this year, despite the recommendation issued by the European Center for the control and prevention of diseases on March 2,” before worsening of the coronavirus epidemic.