May 22, 2022 8:30 am

Court against propaganda



The ruling of a social court in Alicante has opened a debate that transcends the purely legal and puts the central government and the regional executives before the mirror of their responsibilities during the hardest months of the pandemic in 2020. The Alicante court not only has held the Generalitat of the Valencian Community responsible for the occupational risks suffered by doctors and health workers in Alicante due to the lack of means of protection, but has also condemned the regional administration to compensate with specific amounts -up to 50,000 euros- to more than 150 professionals affected by Covid-19.

It is a sentence that is going to be appealed by the Valencian Government, and the High Court of Justice may admit that the regional administration was overcome by an unpredictable situation of lack of gloves, masks and protective equipment.

Or perhaps it maintains the thesis of the court that the responsibility of the Generalitat was inherent in its duty to care for public health workers. And that duty of care included the sufficiency of the material means to prevent contagion. It is noteworthy that the legal defense of the Valencian Generalitat began by endorsing the Ministry of Health any responsibility for damage to the health of toilets with the argument that the state of alarm put all control of the situation in the hands of the Government. However, the judge reminds the Generalitat that, despite the state of alarm, the communities retained their powers in terms of occupational risks on their staff.

It should not be forgotten that the official message from the Government is that “no one could have foreseen the pandemic”, which is not true. On the 31st of this month, it will be two years since the World Health Organization issued an international health emergency, the most serious warning provided for in its regulations. The Government did not take the hint. By then, China confined millions of citizens and, shortly after, the Mobile World Congress was canceled in Barcelona, ​​at the same time that Italy began to shake from the spread of the virus, closed the northern regions and canceled the Venice carnival. And it was still February 2020.

For this very reason, the debate provoked by the sentence of the Alicante court is important, because it is a counterpoint to the official narration of La Moncloa. The exceptionality of the pandemic did not annul the principle of legal and political responsibility of public administrations. With the fallacious argument that it “saved lives”, the Government of Pedro Sánchez tried to establish a kind of exemption from responsibility in all areas of its competence, inappropriate for a rule of law and a democracy.

It does not seem, however, that the judgment of the Alicante court is going to open a floodgate to massive claims from health workers for the non-material damage they suffered between March and June 2020. On the one hand, there are statutes of limitation for legal actions that would be already fulfilled. On the other, there are disparate rulings on the same issue in different autonomous communities. In addition, it will always be necessary to prove in each case the causal relationship between the non-compliance of the regional administration and the damage caused to the worker. Even so, the important thing is that a court has dared to insert a dissonant story in the Government’s complacency with its management, and to underline something as elementary as that responsibility is inherent in the exercise of power. Except in authoritarian regimes.

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