Salvador Illa Roca (born 5 May 1966) is a Spanish politician who serves as the Minister of Health of Spain. He is also the Secretary for Organization of the Socialists' Party of Catalonia since 2016. Previously, Illa served as Mayor of La Roca del Vallès from 1995 to 2005.
Early years and studies
Born in La Roca del Vallès, Spain in 5 May 1966, Illa graduated in Philosophy by the University of Barcelona. He is Associate Professor of the Blanquerna School of Communication and International Relations. Illa also studied a master's degree in Economics and Business Management at IESE Business School. He accomplished the compulsory military service, graduating as Alférez in a company of the Spanish Army Headquarters of Bruc, Barcelona.
Early political career
He was elected councillor of the City Council of La Roca del Vallès in 1987. In 1995, he joined the Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC) and he became Mayor in replacement of the deceased Mayor Romà Planas i Miró.
He was ousted as Mayor after a successful vote of no confidence in early 1999, but he soon made a comeback as his party commanded a qualified majority at the June 1999 local elections.
In September 2005, he was appointed Director-General for Infrastructure Management of the Department of Justice of the Regional Government of Catalonia. From 2010 to 2011 he was Director of the Economic Management Office of the City Council of Barcelona and Coordinator of the Local Socialist Group in the City Council from 2011 to 2016.
Iceta's confidence man
In November 2016, PSC's leader Miquel Iceta appointed him for the position of Secretary for Organization. Illa was the highest-rank politician from among the PSC cadres who attended the "Prou! Recuperem el seny" (English: Enough! Let's recover common sense) anti-independence demonstration in Barcelona on 8 October 2017 organized by Societat Civil Catalana.
He was part, along with Adriana Lastra and José Luis Ábalos, of the negotiating team of the PSOE that reached an agreement with ERC for their abstention in the investiture of Pedro Sánchez in January 2020.
Minister of Health
On January 10, he was unveiled as prospective Minister of Health, in replacement of María Luisa Carcedo. He was appointed by the Monarch on January 13, taking oath before the Sovereign that day. Illa succeeded Carcedo in all the competencies relating public health affairs, but no in the competencies relating consumer affairs and social welfare.
The appointment of Illa, with no experience in the health area, was defined by the media as a "manager", and that its possible role in the government was not just limited to the health portfolio but to act as a channel of communication with Catalan independentism.
One of the first challenges faced by the minister was the outbreak of coronavirus in late 2019.
In late January 2020, the Ministry of Health, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started the process to repatriate around twenty Spaniards from China. On January 29 it was announced that they would be held into quarantine for 14 days in a military hospital of Madrid. In a joint operation with the government of the United Kingdom, they arrived to Spain on January 31 and they were discharged on February 13.
The first case was recorded on January 31, 2020 in the island of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. The patient, a part of a group of five people was taken into observation after had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus. On February 9, 2020, a second case was recoded. This was recorded in the island of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands. Both patients were finally declared free from the virus.
On February 24, 2020, a third case was recorded. Like the others, the patient was a tourist and he was spending his holidays on the Canarian island of Tenerife. That day, the minister convene an extraordinary meeting of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (the standing coordination organ between the regional and the national health authorities) for February 25, the second since he assumed the office.
To avoid more contagions, on February 25 the health authorities put the hotel under quarantine with around 1,000 people inside. Two more cases were recorded that day, one in Barcelona (the first in mainland Spain) and other in Tenerife, the wife of the third case.