Government of Spain to Declare State of Alert

13 Mar 2020

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez has announced that the country’s national government will declare a state of alert throughout Spain for 15 days during tomorrow’s Council of Ministers. This situation is covered by Organic Law 4/1981 of June 1 on the states of alert, exception and siege. It reads as follows:

The Government, using the powers granted to it by article one hundred and sixteen, two, of the Constitution, may declare a state of alert, in all or part of the national territory, when any of the following serious disturbances of normality occur.


A state of alert can de declared during:

  1. Disasters, calamities or public misfortunes, such as earthquakes, floods, urban and forest fires or major accidents.
  2. Health crises, such as epidemics and serious pollution situations.
  3. Paralysis of essential public services for the community, when the provisions of articles twenty-eight, two, and thirty-seven, two, of the Constitution are not guaranteed, when any of the other circumstances or situations contained in this article occur.
  4. Situations in which there is a shortage of basic products.

When the situations referred to in the previous article exclusively affect all or part of the territorial scope of an autonomous community, its president may request the national government declare a state of alert.


The state of alert will be declared through a decree agreed upon by the Council of Ministers. This decree shall determine the territorial scope, duration and effects of the state of alert, which may not exceed 15 days. It may only be extended with the express authorization of the Congress of Deputies, which may then establish the scope and conditions in force during the extension.

For the purposes of the state of alert, the competent authority shall be the national government or, by delegation from the national government, the president of the autonomous community, should the declaration exclusively affect all or part of an autonomous territory.

The national government shall inform the Congress of Deputies of the declaration of a state of alert and shall provide it with the information required. It shall also inform the Congress of the decrees it issues during the state of alert.


During a state of alert, all Public Administration civil authorities in the area(s) affected by the declaration, Autonomous Community Police Forces and Local Corporation members and all other civil servants and workers in service of the same groups will be under the direct command of the competent authority in as far as it is necessary for the protection of persons, goods and places. The competent authority is able to impose extraordinary services for the duration.

When the competent authority is an autonomous community president, they may require collaboration from the State Security Forces and Corps, which will act under the direction of their natural commands.

Noncompliance with or resistance to the competent authority’s orders during a state of alert shall be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of the law.


Regardless of the aforementioned article, the decree declaring the state of alert, or any successive ones that may be issued during its validity, may agree on the following measures:

a) Limit the circulation or stay of persons or vehicles at certain times and places, or condition them upon the fulfillment of certain requirements.

b) Carry out temporary requisitions of all types of goods and impose obligatory personal services.

c) Intervene in and temporarily occupy industries, factories, workshops, operations or premises of any kind, with the exception of private homes, reporting to the relevant Ministries.

d) Limit or ration the use of services or the consumption of basic necessities.

e) Give the necessary orders to ensure market supply.

In the cases provided for in subparagraphs (c) and (d), the government may agree to intervene in enterprises or services, as well as mobilize their personnel, to ensure their continued functioning.

Additionally, in the next several hours, the government of the Community of Madrid is expected to approve the closure of all stores except for grocers and pharmacies. The Territorial Civil Protection Plan (PLATERCAM) has been activated at level 2 to guarantee supplies and health care.

The Basque Country has also decreed a state of health alarm, which confers powers on the lehendakari to confine or close establishments.

In Catalonia, the Government has decreed the cessation of activities in leisure premises, shopping areas, gyms and ski resorts. In addition, the parliamentary group of citizens has announced it will ask the Consell de Garanties Estatutàries (the body responsible for ensuring all Catalan laws are in line with the Constitution and Statutes) for an opinion on the government’s 2020 budget, which it now considers out of date due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Murcia has approved the quarantine of coastal municipalities to avoid the arrival of people from other areas, such as Madrid. In these areas, non-basic service establishments are closed.