Catalan ministers gave a press briefing today to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak and the Catalan government's response.

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 today to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak and the Catalan government’s response.

Following an announcement by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that he is undertaking a round of contacts with political parties with the aim of reaching agreement on state-level pacts, Minister Budó said the Catalan government would be on board if the aim was to work towards “a model based on social justice, in which the rights of workers aren’t curtailed; if the aim isn’t to recentralise competencies and rights; and if the goal is to reach an agreement to democratise the state rather than whitewashing the regime that emerged in 1978”.

She also said Catalonia should be able to “demand recognition of its right to self-determination” in the process of negotiating these pacts. Budó stressed: “We’re a pro-independence government and we’re in favour of self-determination. […] We want to be able to manage crises with the competencies and tools of a state.” Accordingly, she said: “We’ll be on board if the pacts are aimed at economic and social reconstruction, but not if the goal is a reconstruction that prioritises political uniformity in Spain.”

In reference to the challenges facing the tourism sector, the Minister of the Presidency said the Catalan government has been monitoring the impact of the pandemic since the outset. She reported that measures are being considered to ensure the viability of the sector, which accounts for 12% of Catalonia’s GDP and 13% of jobs. “We’re working on common protocols for when the situation starts to turn around.”

Update from the Catalan Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Buch

  • It is hoped that a plan will be in place for children to go outside starting next week. The Catalan Ministry of Health will provide input and guidance on the steps to be taken, and the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak will be taken into account.
  • Distribution of 1.4m face masks to care homes for the elderly is getting under way today. These are surplus masks from the supply provided by the Spanish government.
  • The Mossos (Catalan police) continue to take measures to strictly enforce the lockdown.
  • People are not permitted to go away for the weekend. The partial lifting of the lockdown ordered by the Spanish government only allows some people to go to work. Travel to second homes is not allowed.

Update from the Catalan Minister of Health, Alba Vergés

  • In the first phase of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Catalonia has passed the peak of new cases, hospitalisations and use of intensive care units. New cases peaked on 8 April and hospitalisations and ICU use on 11 April.
  • It is important to continue monitoring the evolution of the epidemic to detect any new outbreaks.
  • The peak of pressure on the healthcare system has also passed, but pressure on ICUs is only easing slowly. 1,259 out of a total of nearly 2,000 ICU beds in Catalonia are currently occupied (around 75%).
  • “Broadly speaking, the evolution of the epidemic is positive,” but there are still “many cases every day, so the risk of a resurgence is significant,” especially in densely populated areas.
  • Key Catalan ministries are working together to ensure that minors are able to go outside, subject to a series of protective measures, in around 10 days if there is not a resurgence.
  • On Monday, face masks for the public will be available at over 3,000 pharmacies in Catalonia.