The president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, announced this morning that a decision has been taken to “go from the pre-alert to the alert phase” of the Civil Protection Plan for Catalonia (PROCICAT) “to continue with the monitoring and containment” of the coronavirus. The decision was taken at a meeting of the technical committee responsible for the PROCICAT plan for dealing with emergencies related to high-risk communicable diseases, held at the Catalan government headquarters early this morning. The Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Buch, also participated in the meeting.
At a press conference held after the meeting, the head of the executive said the Catalan government is dealing with the situation “as a matter of the highest priority” and based on the “maximum unity and spirit of collaboration possible between citizens, institutions and social actors”.
“In the coming days, it may be necessary to take more drastic measures than those adopted so far – with a greater impact on the lives of citizens,” Torra said. To tackle the challenges ahead, the president called for “maximum cooperation, understanding and trust from the public”, stressing that “the more effectively we’re able to act as a united, well-coordinated nation, the better the outcomes we’ll achieve for our citizens”.
The president reaffirmed the Catalan government’s commitment to keep the public informed of ongoing developments. “We need to act with a sense of responsibility, calm, transparency and maximum efficiency, and that’s what we’ll do. And we’ll be working in coordination with all institutions and levels of government.”
Finally, the head of government thanked health and emergency workers for their hard work and dedication. “In exceptional situations, Catalonia always responds in an exceptional way.”
New preventive measures
Following the decision to go to the alert phase, the Catalan government has decided to introduce new mandatory preventive measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The measures will come into effect tomorrow and remain in force for 15 days. They may be extended depending on how the situation develops.
The following measures will be implemented:
- Sports events in Catalonia (professional and non-professional) will be held behind closed doors. In the case of events in which minors participate, players may be accompanied by adults.
- Collective activities that involve gatherings of more than 1000 people, whether held in closed or open spaces, will be suspended or postponed. When such events are held in spaces with a capacity of less than 1000 people, they may be held only if they occupy one third or less of the maximum authorised capacity. This provision is aimed at ensuring sufficient spatial separation between participants.
- These restrictive measures will apply to public, recreational and leisure events, as well as cultural, religious or similar activities, regardless of whether they are offered by a public or private proprietor, operator or organiser.
- The measures that apply to the public administration will be established shortly. In this case, the Directorate-General for the Civil Service will issue instructions to all affected institutions.
The president said he had also instructed the government’s economic team “to develop a plan of measures to mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus”. The plan is being developed by the Ministries of the Vice-Presidency, Business, Territory, Labour and Agriculture. He also announced that “all necessary steps will be progressively taken to provide funding for the extraordinary public policy initiatives required to deal with the coronavirus”, and that the Catalan government “will approve an extraordinary budget allocation to reinforce the health system”.
“We want to protect health professionals”
The Minister of Health said that Catalonia is still in the containment phase and that additional preventive measures have been taken to keep the epidemic under control. “We want to protect health professionals because they’re essential; they’re the ones who have to take care of us,” she stressed.
Vergés said Catalonia “has always shown great solidarity” and called for “understanding and trust”, stressing the need for people to cooperate in order to protect each other. She also said there would have to be a slowdown in the pace of activity in Catalonia to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Minister Buch said: “We’re in the alert phase now because we want to stay one step ahead of the virus. This implies a series of decisions aimed at preventing the coronavirus from spreading more. We’ve done the work we need to and are prepared to deal with any developments that may occur.”
Buch said: “Five groups are being activated: the health group, the population risk assessment group, the logistics group, the rescue group, and the public order group. The rescue group has worked on contingency plans, and the logistics group is working intensively, in contact with companies that can’t interrupt the services they provide.”
Buch reported that the food supply is sufficient to meet the needs of the population. “In recent days, we’ve been in contact with wholesale distributors of food and basic products and services. We want to send a message of calm because there’s no reason to think we won’t be able to find all the food we need.”