The Minister of the Presidency and government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó; the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Buch; and the Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, gave a press briefing yesterday to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak.
Three weeks after a stay-at-home order was issued for Catalonia, and in the expectation of more positive data in the coming days, Budó warned Catalans not to let down their guard. “The lockdown is very important and necessary. […] It’s important that everyone continue to stay home, and anyone who must go out should take every possible precaution,” she said.
In reference to the situation in residential homes for the elderly, the minister said this is a matter of great concern to the government and that President Torra would be meeting with the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir el Homrani, and the Catalan Association of Care Resources to review measures being taken and determine what further action is required.
Commenting on the economic measures being adopted by the Spanish government, the spokesperson said: “They’re coming too late and are insufficient. And we’re not the only ones saying so. Businesspeople, employers, trade unions and others are saying the same thing […] because the majority of measures involve families and companies taking on debt rather than the central government.” Budó stressed: “If preventive measures were taken now, there would be less suffering later and the crisis would be less severe.” The Catalan government is continuing to call for a series of specific measures:
- a universal basic income
- economic support for workers during the period of home confinement
- support for SMEs, companies and the self-employed (loans and liquidity lines)
- suspension of all tax payments, social security contributions, and rent and utility payments
- partial debt forgiveness when necessary
- broadening the scope of force majeure to facilitate temporary lay-offs
- eliminating the deficit objective and expenditure ceiling so governments can devote more resources (or surpluses) to mitigating the effects of the crisis, and
- cutting red tape for companies and individuals
The government spokesperson announced that public transport would be free from Thursday in Catalonia. This measure is intended to recognise the work being done by key workers and “help keep money in the pockets of people and companies”.
Minister Budó said the Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Damià Calvet, had written to the Spanish Minister of Transport, José Luis Ábalos Meco, to request the suspension of toll charges for roads. The Generalitat operates three motorways (C-32, C-33 and C-16). Budó said the Catalan government has not ruled out the possibility of unilaterally eliminating toll charges on these roads.
Support from the business community and open data
A week ago, the Ministry of Business and Knowledge launched a website to bring together and connect companies offering technology, medical supplies and production capabilities to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. “Over 1,100 companies have offered their products, technology and capabilities,” Budó said.
The government spokesperson also reported that steps are being taken to progressively make all coronavirus-related data openly available to ensure that the public has access to up-to-date information.
Update from the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Buch
- Traffic in and out of the metropolitan area of Barcelona was down around 75% from the normal level on Wednesday. The volume of traffic has also dropped significantly from last week due to the tightening of lockdown measures.
- People should not let down their guard. The minister recommended using gloves, maintaining a safe distance from others, and using a face mask or other protective gear when it is necessary to go outside.
- The Mossos (Catalan police) are increasing patrols around essential establishments to ensure the food supply and protect customers, staff and owners. Measures are also being taken to ensure effective communication with owners.
- Measures are being taken to address the increased risk of gender-based violence as a result of the stay-at-home order. Victims can contact the police by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who believes a neighbour is at risk should call the 112 emergency line.
Update from the Minister of Health, Alba Vergés
- The health system will come under enormous strain in the coming days. The Catalan Ministry of Health has taken steps to strengthen the 061 medical helpline, primary care, and hospitals and other spaces.
- The minister stressed the importance of respecting the expertise of health professionals: “I will always defend professional clinical practice, the judgement of the front-line health professionals caring for patients.”
- The Ministry is working to improve open data being made available on Covid-19 patients, which will soon be provided in a standardised international format.
- The minister will sign an order so that it is funeral homes that provide mortality data. Up until now the source been the death registry of the Ministry of Health. This measure is intended to provide data that is as accurate as possible in a transparent way.
- There is still a need for more ventilators for patients in critical condition.
- Starting tomorrow, 25,000 rapid diagnostic tests ordered by the Catalan government will be delivered to hospitals that do not perform PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. The central government has not yet delivered any of the tests promised several days ago.