In a radio interview this morning, President Torra said that when “people’s health and lives are at stake”, he would give whatever orders were required to safeguard the population. “Now, more than ever, I’m the president of Catalonia, and in coordination with the entire government, I’ll give whatever instructions are required to ensure the safety of our citizens and protect their health.”
The president said it was this focus on “putting the lives and health of people at the centre of decision-making” that had led him to send a letter to European authorities today requesting that the European Commission ensure that the guidance and recommendations of the World Health Organisation are strictly respected by all member states. In the letter, Torra listed a series of measures proposed by the Catalan government to combat the coronavirus that have so far been disregarded by the central government.
During the interview, the head of the executive also called on Prime Minister Sánchez to take urgent measures to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic. “Instead of recommendations, he needs to issue orders that give individuals and companies a sense of security; for example, a freeze on rent payments or a moratorium on tax payments.”
Crackdown on weekend getaways
The president reiterated the importance of people staying at home and urged people not to leave their primary residence this weekend. He said he had instructed the Minister of Home Affairs to ensure that the Catalan police take tough action and fine anyone who defies the home confinement order by attempting to travel to a second home. “From today at 3pm until 9pm on Sunday, the police have my authorisation and instructions to stop anyone travelling around Catalonia when not strictly necessary.”
He added: “It’s absolutely imperative that we stay home, in solidarity with the public. Our county hospitals are in a very perilous situation.”
The president warned that the infection curve would continue to climb steeply in the days ahead. “That’s why we’re insisting on a lockdown of the entire population. […] It takes 15 days to see the effects of any action we take. If things get out of hand in the coming days, it will be too late to stop it.”
More protective gear on the way to cover needs for next two weeks
Regarding the shortage of protective gear for health workers, the president confirmed that hospitals currently have reserves “for the next three or four days”, but said that under an agreement reached with the Spanish Ministry of Health, a massive delivery of supplies is expected to arrive on Sunday or Monday, and that this would be sufficient to cover needs for the next two weeks. He also said that one of the priorities was for the supplies to reach homes for the elderly.
The head of the executive said that even though procurement requests must be channelled through the Ministry, the Catalan government is also “looking for alternatives that allow us to secure the essential supplies we need for the coming weeks”.
When asked about the shortage of tests, the head of the government said more would be arriving soon, though “probably not as many as we need”. He also urged the public to use the app STOP COVID19 CAT, launched this week by the Catalan Ministry of Health. He said the app would provide authorities with a heat map of the situation in Catalonia, allow them to identify areas where a high concentration of infected individuals is more likely, and facilitate more effective action.
Collaboration with the private health system
The president also talked about the collaboration of the private health sector with public hospitals. He said patients are now being referred to private facilities and that this measure is working very well because each public hospital has been assigned specific clinics and private hospitals. Torra had words of praise and gratitude for those who had made this initiative possible. He said it was hoped that the measures adopted would make it possible to maintain a degree of stability during the period when the health system is under the most strain. He stressed the need to take decisions as a matter of urgency. “If we’d been able to take all these steps a few days ago, perhaps we’d be in a better situation now.”