MADRID, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish Congress, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday approved the extension of the State of Alarm that was re-imposed on the country last Sunday until May 9, 2021.
The decision means that the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will not have to seek an extension in Congress every two weeks as it did when the first State of Alarm was declared to control the spread of coronavirus between March 14 and June 21.
The measure was passed with 194 votes in favor, 53 against and 103 abstentions, after Sanchez on Wednesday agreed to lift the State of Alarm on March 9 next year if the coronavirus situation permits it.
The prime minister has also agreed to appear before Congress every two months to explain the epidemiological situation.
Health Minister Salvador Illa highlighted that there was an "emergency" situation in "almost every Spanish territory," and "several territories had over 35 percent of their intensive care beds occupied" by COVID-19 patients.
The State of Alarm will not for now mean a full lockdown, such as that imposed on the Spanish people on March 14. Instead, it provides a legal "umbrella" for Spain's 17 autonomous communities to take the action they consider necessary in their regions.
These actions could include a curfew and other restrictions, such as limiting mobility in and out of municipalities or even in the community itself if the sanitary situation so requires.
As of Thursday, 12 of Spain's regions had imposed varying restrictions on movement with some, such as Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla-Leon, closing their perimeters for up to 15 days. The Basque region has not only closed its perimeter but also prohibited movement between municipalities. Catalonia has imposed similar restrictions, with movement between municipalities limited only on weekends.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso, president of the Madrid region, confirmed on Thursday that her government would only limit movement from the region over the next two weekends.
According to the Ministry of Health, by Thursday Spain has registered 1,136,505 COVID-19 cases and 35,466 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
A State of Alarm is the first of three emergency levels a Spanish government can apply under exceptional circumstances, with the others being a State of Exception and Martial Law (Estado de Sitio).