The president is advocating five key measures to overcome the crisis, including a total lockdown and a universal basic income.
President Torra addresses the videoconference participants

The president of the Government of Catalonia Quim Torra, said: “We have no choice but to implement a full lockdown if we want to curb the pace of contagion”, stressing that “the more drastic the lockdown is, the shorter the crisis will be”.

During a videoconference today with the presidents of parliamentary groups and subgroups, the head of the government said: “This isn’t about politics, ideology or flag-waving; it’s a health issue and a question of what we need to do to stop the spread of this disease.” The president noted that the measures the Catalan government is proposing have already been implemented in many countries.

Echoing the opinion of epidemiologists and researchers, the head of the executive said: “We won’t see the results of the decisions we take today until a couple of weeks from now”.  The president said it was therefore necessary to take urgent action and focus all efforts on flattening the contagion curb. “If we don’t act decisively now, we might nor see the peak of contagion until late April.”

“We don’t currently have the competencies to take certain decisions, but I urge you to act responsibly and with full commitment. We need a total lockdown that includes everything but essential services.”

The president acknowledged that the data on the pandemic in Catalonia is “very worrying, the rate of contagion is very high, and infections are severe”. He said it was therefore imperative to take steps to slow the rate of contagion and avoid overwhelming the health system. “Our priority now must be protecting people’s health. If we achieve that, we’ll have the chance to rebuild the economy after the crisis has passed.”

The head of the executive also reviewed the measures taken by the Catalan government since early March to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, noting that a total lockdown of Catalonia could not be fully defined and applied due to the Spanish government’s declaration of a state of emergency. Torra once again called on Prime Minister Sánchez to implement a total lockdown throughout Spain, reiterating an appeal that he and several other regional presidents made last Sunday.


Five essential measures

To deal with the fallout of the current health crisis, the president said it was essential to “face up to the challenges and reassure workers, the self-employed, SMEs, companies and the public in general”. He set out five specific measures that the Catalan government is proposing to achieve this: 1) a total lockdown, with the exception of essential services; 2) protecting citizens by providing a universal basic income; 3) supporting SMEs, the self-employed and companies by providing loans and liquidity; 4) suspending payment of taxes, rent and payments for gas, water and electricity; and 5) an all-out effort to strengthen the health and care system.

President Torra said all of these measures could be taken simultaneously and called on the parliamentary groups to act with “generosity and provide the support needed to move forward”.

“We’ll need a united front and a broad Catalan national agreement to reactivate society, the economy and all of the sectors damaged by the coronavirus outbreak.”


Preventing the collapse of the health system

President Torra said that the decisions taken by the Catalan government have eased pressure on emergency services and primary care but recognised that ICUs are starting to come under a lot of strain, a situation made worse by a shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators.

The head of the executive said progress was being made to overcome these challenges. “By the end of this week, Catalonia will have doubled its ICU capacity to provide care for patients in serious condition. […] We’re working tirelessly to get hold of ventilators and beds with the necessary equipment.” On the issue of personal protective equipment for health professionals, the president once again called for an “urgent solution”, noting that “the centralised procurement of protective masks, gowns and gloves isn’t working as it should”. Finally, the president appealed to the public to act with “discipline, commitment and generosity” and help relieve pressure on the health system by not going to the doctor or emergency departments for matters that are not urgent.