The message from the Head of Government of Andorra, Xavier Espot:
“Since the beginning of the crisis caused by COVID-19, the Government has followed a policy of information transparency. The spokesman, the minister of health and myself, we have been making regular appearances to keep everyone informed on the state of the situation and to explain in as much detail as possible the measures the Government has decided to take at all times. The rest of the Ministers also had a smooth dialogue with the representatives of civil society in each of the areas of their competence. We will continue to do so.
The exceptionality and paramountcy of the measures that the Government has just agreed this evening justify this appearance, which is also extraordinary. We are facing a situation that will test our maturity and resilience as a society and as a country. The Government, at all times, took the necessary steps to address the evolution of a crisis that is advancing at an unpredictable rate. We have done it with calm and responsibility, but also with determination and firmness. We must all be aware that no measure would have prevented, nor will prevent, Andorra from experiencing the public health crisis represented by COVID-19. Scientific evidence shows that the disease, already described as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, will affect all countries and all latitudes.
What we are doing with all these extraordinary measures is to try to stop the contagion, preserve those who are particularly vulnerable and minimize the risk of collapse of the public health system.
No action, nor decision guarantees to achieve these goals. However, what we do know is that without such measures, which may seem drastic, we would be in a situation that is impossible to manage. On Wednesday afternoon and last night, I announced some actions and measures that have allowed us to keep the situation under control so far. However, the evidence of community transmission phase of COVID-19 in our country, the evolution of the contagion figures in the last hours in the neighbouring countries, especially in Spain, and the risk that this situation could be replicated here, have led the Government to adopt a new set of measures that will be implemented from tomorrow.
As approved by the Executive, from tomorrow Saturday and for, an extendable, period of 15 days, all leisure establishments, gyms, bars, restaurants and all commercial establishments, except those that sell essential goods such as grocery stores and supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations, will be closed. On the other hand, the General Administration, the communal administrations and the Administration of Justice, as agreed with the consuls of the seven parishes and with the High Council of Justice, will limit their public services to strictly essential; meaning that all those procedures or actions that are not urgent must be postponed until the end of these measures. A more widespread closure is the only way we can contain the epidemic and stabilize the situation.
I am aware that these measures have important implications for the social, economic and labour life of the country. The priority today and always is to guarantee the management of the health crisis as orderly as possible. Our priority is to ensure the healthcare services have the ability to deal with the pandemic; but that does not mean that the economic and social consequences are not important to the Government: And today I can tell you that we will leave no need unattended. That is why, next Monday, there will be a meeting with economic and social agents to assess the implications of the situation as a whole, and these measures in particular, on the country’s productivity.
When addressing the economic and social implications of the COVID-19 crisis, we must start from a very simple principle of co-responsibility. All sectors and all parties involved will have to make an effort. Each one will receive according to their need and each one will have to give according to their ability. This affects both the private and public sectors; employers, employees and the self-employed; those sectors that are already suffering the consequences of this crisis directly and severely, as well as those that have not yet suffered them. We have continued to work in this regard and today we have agreed with Andorran Banking to grant soft loans to companies with liquidity problems, up to a value of 60 million euros, and with a government guarantee.
We will also apply, where necessary, an extension of the deadline or option of split payment of taxes and other government fees. We will amend the Social Security Law to provide appropriate social coverage to people on leave due to detection or suspicion of COVID-19, especially in the case of healthcare staff who are on the front lines of this crisis. In addition, we will adapt labour legislation to guarantee the receipt of salaries ensuring a fair distribution of the burden, due to closure or reduction of activity, between the employees and the companies.
In the same spirit, if necessary, Administration staff will be mobilised to perform tasks of general interest other than their regular duties. The situation requires the involvement of all, and any palliative solution or measure we adopt will need to be equitable and inclusive. I would like to thank the tone and the general content of the proposals that the employers sent to the Minister of Presidency, Economy and Business yesterday, some of which the Government has already agreed on and others are under study.
They are proposals typical of a civil society that is mature and capable of prioritising general interest. Just as the attitude and the offer of assistance received from the unions. We should also be grateful for the responsible and role model attitudes of the ski resorts, Caldea and many other companies and businesses, which have not only understood the seriousness of the situation but have anticipated and acted accordingly. I said that the crisis of COVID-19 is testing our degree of maturity as a country. I also think that we are setting a good example.
On behalf of the entire Government and myself, I want to extend the most sincere thanks to all the public servants, especially the health and emergency staff. Hard days are coming for those who work at the hospital and health centres. We all have a social duty to facilitate their work and to contribute to the most orderly management of the situation. The gratitude also extends to employees of the private sector, self-employed, professionals and companies; They are making every effort to adapt to this situation.
Last but not least, my most sincere thanks to the people who are part of the institutions of the State. These days I am in constant communication with the services of the co-princes, who have always been and are a fundamental pillar of the stability of Andorra in critical moments. Furthermore, the Government has the support and collaboration of the syndicate and the Higher Council of Justice. Parliamentary groups, both the majority and the opposition, are also setting an example of institutional loyalty that should make us proud as a country.
Finally, the Comuns, as institutions that are closest to the day-to-day life of the citizens, are fulfilling their mission with excellence. Everyone, with public or private responsibility, must be supportive and set an example of patriotism. In a few hours, we will celebrate the 27th anniversary of the referendum approval of the 1993 Constitution. On March 14, 1993, Andorra entered through the door of the international community, fully recognized as a sovereign state. Our sovereignty and identity date back many centuries, but the constitution meant its formal recognition.
Due to COVID-19, the public events celebrating the Constitution have been suspended. But there is no better celebration than we can do tomorrow and in the days to come: By giving an example of maturity, of responsibility, of strict and disciplined compliance with the rules agreed by the public authorities and in solidarity with those who are suffering the crisis in more direct way.”