In a parliamentary control session held this morning, Catalan president Quim Torra announced that the use of face masks will be mandatory in Catalonia from tomorrow, even when it is possible to maintain physical distancing.
This measure follows the ordering of perimeter controls around the county of Segrià a few days ago to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Catalonia. The head of the executive defended the measure taken in the counties of Lleida and stressed that the government would take “whatever decisions are necessary. At this point, all options are on the table. If we need to issue a stay-at-home order, we’ll do it. We’ll always listen to what the experts say, and if they recommend this step, I won’t hesitate to take it.”
While acknowledging that the situation in Lleida is “very complex”, the president said the Executive Council started to work on a protocol for the fruit harvest months ago, and that all necessary steps – including round-the-clock monitoring, contact tracing and protective measures – are being taken in the most decentralised way possible.
President Torra said farmers and seasonal workers should not be blamed for the outbreak in Segrià because they did not cause the flare-up. The head of the executive thanked those who have come to Catalonia to work and said they have “every right to do so”. He called on the central government to regulate the situation of seasonal workers and insisted that the majority of farmers are fulfilling their responsibilities. The president also called for workers who cannot do their jobs to be compensated so that they can stay at home, and for businesspeople to be provided with financial aid so that they can keep their businesses going.
Referendum date and conditions: key issues for the negotiating table
In reference to the resumption of negotiations with the Spanish government, Torra stressed that talks should focus on the conditions and date for an independence referendum. In reply to a question from the leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, the president said all that needs to happen for a second meeting to take place is for “[Prime Minister] Sánchez to send me a letter saying that the first item on the agenda will be the exercise of Catalonia’s right to self-determination and the date and conditions that will apply”.
The president said that the exercise of Catalonia’s right to self-determination and an amnesty are points that all pro-independence forces agree on but lamented that “nothing has changed” with respect to repression or Catalonia’s right to decide its own future. He said he did not want to be a “passive witness” to the erosion of the significance of the First of October referendum as a break with Spain.
“We’ll never be able to manage Catalonia with the budget of an autonomous community”
During the parliamentary control session, the president once again stressed the need for Catalonia to have the financial resources it needs to tackle the multiple crises triggered by the pandemic. “We’ll never be able to manage Catalonia with the budget of an autonomous community,” he said. Torra emphasised the central government’s historical debt with Catalonia and the €16bn annual gap between what Catalonia pays in taxes to the state and what it receives back in spending. “The Catalan government’s reprioritisation of budget allocations won’t be enough,” he said.
To cover needs in the near future, the president reminded members that an additional €5bn has been requested from the European Stability Mechanism “to inject immediate liquidity [because] we can’t wait until 2021 to get the funds we need”. He called on opposition groups to put pressure on the Spanish government to secure these financial resources, which he said the government needs “to distribute among all citizens and act on resolutions adopted by Parliament”.