ELA considers it essential to move on from a Covid-19 co-existence strategy to eradicating the disease

Nov 09, 2020
It is time to strengthen public services; to implant a wide-reaching social cover for the affected sectors and people; and to intensify safety at work.

ELA considers that the time has come to make a profound change in strategy regarding Covid-19. This pandemic is causing some very serious consequences. The official data, which without any doubt does not reflect the complete picture, shows us that the coronavirus has caused the death of over 2,000 people in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (ACBC) and 700 in Navarra. Many of them have died in care homes. These deaths not only occurred at the beginning of the pandemic. Over the past month there have been over 100 deaths in Navarra and 200 in the ACBC.















Source: Own preparation based on official statistics.

The strategy followed throughout Europe with the de-escalation has been to co-exist with the virus instead of eradicating it, as occurred in Asia and Oceania. In view of the evolution of Covid-19 and of the steps that are once again being taken all over the European continent, it does not seem to have been a correct strategy.  

This strategy has been based on the mantra of combining health protection with maintaining the economy. This has not been achieved, in either of these areas:

    • The contagion levels are very high; they are unacceptable levels, as may be shown with the data that we offered above and which is offered everyday by both the Basque Government and the Navarra Government.
    • An important rise in unemployment has occurred, which has not reached even greater levels because the Temporary Employment Regulations are partially alleviating this situation. The response by institutions is not being, in any way, the one required by the context. The second wave that we are experiencing is going to have repercussions such as a slowing down or halting of the activity in many sectors, which is going to get worse and is going to have lasting effects over a long period. This is going to mean an increase in inequality and in the situations of poverty and social exclusion.

From the very beginning, ELA marked out a demanding position, putting life at the centre as the main priority, and reporting that the public authorities were making their decisions looking more towards the short-term interests of the business community, stubbornly wanting to maintain certain work centres open, rather than looking at the health of the people involved. Our proposal also responded to an economic logic, since only by guaranteeing the health of the population and with the pandemic under control will we be able to go back to having a more normalised, continuous economic activity.

With the start of the de-escalation, the actions carried out by institutions have mainly centred on carrying out recommendations and appealing to individual responsibility. Obviously, the entire population must behave in accordance with the seriousness of the situation, but it is no less true that the impression given by these recommendations is the fact that the wish to evade political responsibilities has been hidden when faced by the lack of specific actions and steps (no response has been given, for example, to Health demands, such as an increase in staff and the hiring of the necessary number of trackers; the reduction of ratios in Care homes, added recruitment or psycho-social risk evaluation; in Education, reduction of ratios and subsequent increase in staff that would allow new spaces to be fitted out to guarantee in-person activity;…).

ELA also considers that this strategy of referring to individual responsibility also intends to escape companies’ responsibility when fulfilling their obligations to look after their workers’ health.


Those who have practised the co-existence strategy with the virus did so under the hypothesis that the healthcare system should not be overwhelmed. It has been seen that this has not been the case. In recent weeks, all the alarms have gone off: a growing level of hospital and ICU bed occupation by Covid-19 patients, the collapse of the primary healthcare…

Back in the day, we stated that no European healthcare system was in suitable conditions to respond to a pandemic of these characteristics, but also that the cutback policies had deteriorated the quality of our healthcare systems. Osakidetza and Osasunbidea are underfunded and this worsened the consequences that we were, and we are experiencing.

Over 7 months since the start of the pandemic, it can be affirmed that the politicians in charge have not acted in line with the scale of the challenge:

    • When the contagion curves, deaths and overburdening of the healthcare system started to grow again, the lack of planning has been demonstrated. If, at the very beginning, in March, the fact that the situation was new could be understood, it is unacceptable that after so much time, there is no coherent response to the upturn that the entire scientific world had been announcing.
    • A reasonable reference control panel has not been in existence previously, nor is it available now. The contagion rates that are considered serious by the institutions of the ACBC and Navarra (500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days) are way above the parameters established in the European area. If notice were to be taken of the reference panel that has just been established in Spain, we were already at high risk, both in the ACBC and in Navarra, at the beginning of August. And since the end of that month, we have been at an extreme risk level. A rigorous control panel is needed, defined by the scientific community and accompanied by steps to be applied in each case. This is nothing close to reality.

Both the Basque Government and the Government of Navarra have trailed behind the events. They acted late and insufficiently. The evolution of the pandemic itself would be enough to justify this statement. However, we want to refer to two specific elements that clearly point in this direction: the detection and tracking systems and the Basque Government’s Bizi Berri II Plan.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it was known that one of the keys was the fast and exhaustive identification of the contacts made by a person infected by the virus. And that to do this it was essential to have a primary healthcare system capable of identifying the largest number of cases possible and of doing it fast. Today, it can be said, without any doubt, that the system was full of holes.

We are in a situation of community transmission and the contacts identified by Osakidetza and Osasunbidea don’t reach even half of the cases. This is due to several reasons, amongst them the delay and insufficiency in the provision of trackers. Their number has been increasing very slowly. On the 26
th of October, there were 112 in Navarra (30 of them Service personnel, a simple of the Government’s collaboration with the militarisation discourse of the fight against Covid) and 375 in the ACBC, which is the equivalent to one per every 5,800 inhabitants, one of the worst ratios throughout the State. This is worsened when tracking contacts with close working conditions, as it is left in the hands of the companies’ Prevention of Risks Services, which are showing more interest in hiding any possible outbreaks than in preventing the spreading of the contagions. As a result, the identification of the close contacts, when it is done, is carried out with a long delay, to which is also added the delay from the detection of symptoms to the carrying out of the tests. It is obvious that we are arriving late, very late in all cases.

In spite of the fact that the situation has already been highly concerning since August, the Basque Government presented its Plan at the beginning of October, called Bizi Berri II. This plan contemplates a series of scenarios, which could be criticised on their own. The rates used to classify the situation on five levels (from ‘Without any local transmission’ to ‘Very high Transmission’) are way above the ones agreed upon in the so-called European Traffic Light system and in the Spanish State’s system.

When the situation reaches the maximum level of the Basque Government’s Plan, there are steps that are planned (such as the extension of working from home as far as possible, restrictions to 30% in shops and markets with preventive protocols, or the closing of restaurants and hotels by zones), which not only has not been started up, but also does not even seem to be on the Basque Government’s agenda.


ELA considers it a priority for the decisions to be made in terms of the common agreements existing in the scientific community. And we believe that this reflection should be imposed both in the short, and the medium and long terms.

The events of the last few days and weeks clearly show us that the most suitable strategy to conserve health – and the one that has been called the economy, is that of eradicating the virus, not living alongside it. We should have learnt that we need to act strongly and early: equipping ourselves with an important detection and tracking capacity and adopting strict restrictions with a low number of cases.

At the moment, in our region restrictive steps are already being applied, which are not giving the expected results. We are en route to a lockdown similar to the one we had in the first months of the pandemic and the institutions are setting the stage for this.

At the point we have reached, ELA shares the need to adopt serious restrictive steps, which must be accompanied by decisions that allow worker health to be safeguarded, as well as mitigating the economic consequences of the situation that we are already experiencing and that, as we have already mentioned, are going to get worse. We would like to underscore this point and to do this we are setting forth the need to urgently adopt steps aimed at:


    • Establishing the compulsory nature of working from home whenever possible.
    • Increasing inspections in the work centres, as well as controlling capacity. * Strengthening the inspection team by 100 people in the ACBC and 50 in Navarra.
    • Taking public control of the prevention services, making their personnel available.
    • Strengthening the frequency of public transport and limiting its capacity.
    • A drastic limitation of capacity, taking into account the volume of the spaces and also the evidence of contagion due to aerosols.
    • The obligation of implanting air renewal or purification systems to stem contamination via aerosols.  


    • Urgently carrying out a process with the scientific community to prepare a tracking and control panel for Covid-19. The establishment of a rate (for example, 100) from which mass testing of the affected population is carried out (by district, health areas…).
    • An important strengthening of the detection, tracking and follow up of the cases of contacts, to guarantee the fast identification of virtually all the positive cases. Extending the implantation of the Radar Covid application.
    • An increase in healthcare personnel to bring it up to the European average.
    • A public intervention of private healthcare to make primary healthcare and hospitalisation possible.
    • An immediate extension of the worker ratio for people being looked after in the socio-healthcare sectors.


    • All the unemployed are entitled to receive an allowance that covers them. Today, we are a long way from this situation, and the seriousness of the crisis makes it more necessary than ever to take this step.
    • To mitigate the consequences for the economic sectors worst affected, through mechanisms that compensate losses and that are not merely symbolic. The establishment of mechanisms for the exoneration or reduction of rents. The application of steps such as the one established in Germany, which sets forth refunding up to 75% of the losses in sales for companies that have been particularly affected by the crisis and the restrictions.
    • Prohibition of evictions and cutting off of basic supplies for vulnerable people who have no living alternatives.
    • The start up of a proprietary system of Temporary Employment Regulation supplement for all those affected.
    • The establishment of the right to look after people testing positive or confined, also with the right to an economic allowance.

All these steps mean an increase in the budget. In order for this to be feasible, an increase in public revenue is needed. A fiscal reform under the terms ELA has been setting forth is urgently needed, through an important increase in the taxes on company profits, equity, capital and high incomes.

Furthermore, the current legal framework makes it difficult, or prevents the institutions from Hego Euskal Herria from being able to make the necessary decisions to tackle a pandemic such as the one we are experiencing. The limits of the legal framework are, once again, being revealed. We must be able to rely on a framework of sovereignty, in order to ensure that all the necessary steps can be taken here.

Finally, ELA is making a call to its members and to the population in general to take part in the mobilisation dynamics that are being developed over the next weeks and months. Social mobilisation has been, is and will be the democratic participation route for a large part of the population. And in times of pandemic, it is more necessary than ever. We are not going to accept that they take advantage of the mobility restrictions to reduce the right to organise ourselves and fight for a fairer model of society.