The president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, called on Catalan citizens to take the initiative and make the fight against the coronavirus a “shared, civic fight driven by a sense of solidarity”. “I urge everyone to confine themselves at home as soon as possible. Only workers in the food, care and health sectors and essential services should go to work.” The head of the executive stressed the need to take every preventive measure possible during this serious emergency. The president made these statements in an appearance following a videoconference between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the presidents of Spain’s autonomous communities. Torra said that during the meeting he had insisted on the need to “isolate Madrid, Catalonia, and all focal points of risk”.
The head of the executive was critical of a royal decree adopted by the Council of Ministers yesterday and said he had told PM Sánchez that “the state of emergency could have provided the Catalan government and others with tools to fight the coronavirus. Instead, it’s been put at the service of an outdated idea of what Spain is and a set of measures that are insufficient and ineffective”. He said the Spanish government’s response has been “insufficient” because “we’ve moved from the containment to the mitigation stage [and must therefore] be more courageous and take more drastic action if we want to curb the exponential spread of the virus”. The head of the government stressed that “Catalonia, Spain as a whole, and the countries around us need home confinement to fight the coronavirus” and said it was essential to shut down airports, ports and high-speed train lines.
The president also said he had requested a package of compensatory economic measures to tackle the consequences of the pandemic. “€60 billion was spent to save the banks; now we need to save companies, workers and the self-employed.” Torra said he had called, first of all, for the suspension of deadlines for payment of taxes and social security contributions by companies and the self-employed and the extension of due dates. Secondly, he proposed compensation for self-employed workers and measures to maintain the remuneration of employees who have to stay at home. The president also advocated establishing new unlimited lines of credit to provide liquidity, and that temporary lay-offs should not result in the loss of wages for workers or use up their entitlement to unemployment benefits. He also called for the suspension of deadlines for payments on mortgages and for electricity, gas and water services, and stressed the importance of ensuring that the first beneficiaries of these measures are small and medium-sized enterprises, self-employed workers, and the most affected sectors.
The head of the executive also announced that he had instructed the Minister for Digital Policy and Public Administration, Jordi Puigneró, to ensure that civil servants employed by the Government of Catalonia stay at home (with the exception of those working in essential services) and asked the Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir El Homrani, and the Minister of Business and Knowledge, Àngels Chacón, to talk to employers’ associations and trade unions to ensure the effective implementation of home confinement. “The Catalan government will continue to take decisions. People’s health and lives are what matter right now.”