- The Spokesperson of the Government Meritxell Budó remarks that “the Government will adopt the necessary measures” to contain the spread of COVID-19
- Minister of Home Affairs Miquel Samper insisted that mobility "needs to be reduced to the minimum possible and kept as short as possible"
- Minister of Health Alba Vergés stated that "we ought to be a team of 7 and a half million people" in the fight against coronavirus
The Catalan Government presented a new package of measures aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 due to the worsening of the data reported during the last days. Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès; the Spokesperson of the Government and Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó; the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Samper; and the Minister of Health, Alba Vergés explained the measures approved by PROCICAT in a virtual press conference.
The Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès, admits that these "decisions are difficult and painful due to its social and economic consequences, but absolutely essential to deal with the first wave of the pandemic". The Vice-President has detailed that the current risk of outbreak in Catalonia is at 362.16 points and the rate of infection is 1.37. "Both mathematical models and experts and epidemiologists tell us that this trend will increase every day, and therefore, we must act as soon as possible”, he stressed.
In this situation, "we ask everyone to reduce mobility, to limit social interaction and gatherings, and to promote telework as long as it is possible". The Vice-President explained that the new measures, which come into force at 12 p.m. on Thursday night and will be valid for 15 days, will imply restrictions in areas where social activity increases the risk to spread the disease, "and consumption will thus be suspended in bars and restaurants, and their terraces".
Aragonès has recognized that it is a “painful" measure for workers and employers in the sector, "but necessary if we want to prevent the pandemic from spreading even faster". "If we do not want to collapse the health care system, we must act now. We are implementing measures like other European countries, where a second wave of the pandemic is also present", he added.
In this sense, the Vice-President has announced that the Government will approve measures to support bars and restaurants "and provide support to this collective effort it is making". Therefore, the following Tuesday the government will approve a decree law that will include direct aid worth 40M€ for establishments that have suffered a major impact on turnover and for which food service is the only source of income. In addition, extra guarantees will be included to cover short-term liquidity needs of at least €12,000.
Aragonès has insisted that limitation of mobility and activity is the best way to contain the spread of the pandemic. "The alternative would be to implement more severe restrictions and another lockdown, but we want to avoid it, because we know that social and economic consequences are extremely harsh. We ought to be fully responsible the following 15 days in order to save the coming weeks and months. The priority is the same as day one: to maintain citizen's health and save lives", he concluded.
On the other hand, the Spokesperson of the Government and Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, thanked "the citizens for understanding the measures adopted, which are not easy and involve sacrifices". The Minister assured that the Government "is convinced that the adoption of severe measures will contain the spread of Covid, and that they are similar to the measures taken in other countries".
In this sense, the Spokesperson of the Government reminded that "it is a struggle we all must do together" and that as a "Government, we will take the necessary measures and we will do whatever it takes". Meritxell Budó stressed that the Executive will be "transparent and clear with the data found". She asked the citizens for "co-responsibility and support" to these measures for 15 days "in order to reduce mobility and social interaction". "If we all follow the Government's recommendations, we will be able to start these activities again soon even if today we need to stop doing them", she stated.
Minister Budó stressed that "if we are now able to flatten the curve, if we are able to reduce epidemiological data, we will very likely be able to maintain and preserve the Christmas campaign, which is very important for trade, tourism and bars and restaurants, and the ski season. We have to work to make this happen".
Changes in Rental Contracts
The Minister said that a series of measures have been adopted to reduce the impact of the measures on the country's economic sectors. Meritxell Budó has announced that"the Government will suggest the incorporation into the Catalan Civil Code of the clause rebus sic stantibus that regulates the unpredictable alteration of circumstances in contracts. This is aimed at supporting businesses that will see their economic activity halted and will not be able to cope with the rental of the premises".
Budó explained that "this rule appeals the renewal of the contract by the parties, in accordance with the principle of conservation of contracts. If the renegotiation is rejected by one party or it fails, the party affected by the crisis can ask a judge to adapt the contract to new circumstances".
The Minister also informed that the Government "is working to support all the sectors affected by these measures. Hospitality and nightlife industries have not been able to carry out its economic activity for seven months".
Re-schedule of Non-Professional Sport Competitions
Sports depend on the General Secretariat for Sport and Physical Activity of the Department of the Presidency and the Minister Budó has announced that, at the request of the Departments of Health and Home Affairs, "sports competitions for the next 15 days need to be re-scheduled, with the exception of state, international and professional competitions". Meritxell Budó added that "teams will not be able to compete at weekends but trainings will still be allowed, sports facilities will remain open and also gyms with a capacity limited at 50%".
Minister Budó stressed that "sport is safe and the protocols from the Government are being applied. The incidence in the world of sports is very low. But we need to reduce mobility. If we stop sport competitions for 15 days mobility at weekends will be reduced”.
Reduce Mobility and Social Interaction
The Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Samper, insisted on the paradigm shift we need to adopt from now onwards to coexist with COVID-19, since the new resolution is applied. As for the mobility, the Minister has advanced that "safety distance needs to be respected, and trips need to be the reduced and journeys need to be kept as short as possible. Social interactions need to be evaluated and the group of coexistence needs to be considered “
Samper has specified that according to the medical criteria, "a group of coexistence includes all the people who live under the same roof as well as the caregivers, and people with whom we have a stable, safe and closed relationship", he added.
The Minister of Home Affairs also explained that we have made an improvement in police coordination. The local police of each town and city will inform the police of the daily number of officers affected by the Covid-19, people identified and reported for non-compliance, complaints to premises, closed premises, and relevant incidents".
The Minister also informed that culture will suffer a 50% reduction of capacity; there will always be pre-assigned seats, either in theatres, cinemas or concerts and the closing time will be 11 p.m.
Samper announced that all services implying contact will have to close, except for hairdressers. Shops will need to reduce their capacity at 30% and shopping centres and shops of more than 400 m2 will have to control their capacity in real time. Common areas of the shopping centres will remain closed.
Like the Minister of the Presidency, Samper has emphasized that the clause Rebus suc stantibus is not minor. "We will try to make this modification because it enables a better adaptation of the contract conditions to the current situation. For example, we could have signed a rental contract at a certain moment, but the conditions we signed could have been altered as an effect of an unpredictable cause of significant dimensions such as a pandemic.". The Minister emphasized that "this is a relevant and empathic issue that counts with the Government's sensitivity".
Finally, Samper has also expressed the "the government's empathy for the medical and scientific community that implements the measures we are executing".
Primary Health Care, Fully Focused on Case Detection
The Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, has stated that the measures taken today are “painful, but necessary" and stressed that "they need to be implemented now in order to anticipate as much as possible the situation to come". "It is a collective effort we make for the soonest recovery of the most affected ones". “We ought to be a team of 7 and a half million people" in the fight against Covid-19, highlighted the Minister of Health.
Alba Vergés also emphasized that "lockdown helped us reduce the incidence of Covid cases” but stressed that "we are not in that situation anymore", although there is "an increase in transmission speed". "We want to make an effort as short as possible, although it is not the effort we made in March".
Therefore, the Minister has called on the society to reduce social relations: "Now it is strictly necessary to reduce social interaction to a minimum. This is painful but essential. Anyone who can telework needs to do it. All dispensable social gatherings need to be postponed. All deferrable activities should be rescheduled".
During her speech, the Minister of Health also highlighted the role of the primary health care in this pandemic: "Primary health care is fully focused on case detection and contact identification and 25% of its capacity is busy managing COVID-19". She also added that "This week alone we have dealt with 20,000 suspicious cases of COVID and 12% were positive".
The Minister also indicated that right now there are 12,000 positive cases per week, and this means "more complexity when managing these cases", because each case involves tracking all contacts in order to try to cut the transmission chains.
Vergés explained that the increase in cases has also affected hospitals. She informed that during the last 7 days 753 people have been admitted to Catalan hospitals, that is, 11% increase in Covid-19. He also specified that 141 people have entered the ICU affected by coronavirus SARS-COV-2, an increase of 21%, and warned that ICU's occupancy of some centres is already approaching 35%.
"Today we have more than 1,000 patients hospitalized and 189 people in critical beds for COVID-19" said Vergés, who also noted that in the educational field "there are more than 30,000 people in lockdown".
In the press conference, the Minister of Health also highlighted that the health system has multiplied by 10 the capacity to make PCRs. "We have a daily capacity of 30,000 PCR". "To date, we have done more than 2 million tests, that is, a test to every 1 out of 4 citizens”. He also explained that a PCR has been made to almost 93,000 people with screenings aimed at detecting asymptomatic people in communities, schools and workplaces. There is 1 million of antigen tests and 500,000 of them have already been distributed. The number of beds has also been increased "by 50%. From 600 to 900. We are working with the aim to increase them further. In addition, PCR is being made to all workers in the residential sector, which are more than 50,000".
Finally, the Minister has indicated that we are not alone in this situation, it is happening all over Europe and everyone is forced to act".