Yesterday, the Catalan Government approved new measures to confront the progress of COVID-19 pandemic in Catalonia in the extraordinary meeting of the Executive Council. The measures include the regional lockdown of Catalonia for 15 days and a local lockdown at weekends, from 6 a.m. on Friday morning until 6 a.m. on Monday.
The new measures were announced by the Vice-President of the Government and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès; the Minister of the Presidency and spokesperson of the Government, Meritxell Budó, the Minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Sàmper and the Minister of Health, Alba Vergés.
"We adopt a set of measures to keep social interaction at the essential level" emphasized the Vice-President of the Government. He explained that stopping social interaction should contain the second wave of covid-19, especially when Europe is immersed in an unprecedented global pandemic in the contemporary world". "It is time to stop social activity and stay at home to keep activity only at the essential level: school, commerce and work that cannot be done remotely", he stressed.
Pere Aragonès requested a "double collective effort" from the citizens "by stopping their social activity", and the Government "by committing to confront the pandemic, protect the most vulnerable and support the most affected economic sectors". In this sense, he announced that the Catalan Government will mobilize "immediately" more than €300 million "to respond to the economic and social consequences of the pandemic". This money will be transferred as direct aid to the most affected sectors in order to address social and housing emergency problems arising from the crisis.
The Vice-President admitted that the measures "are harsh due to their social and economic impact" but “essential to avoid health system saturation and loss of control of the second wave of the pandemic”; therefore, "we are forced to act wilfully when Covid hits us hard again".
The Minister of the Presidency explained that the Government has agreed on these measures, following the resolution adopted by the Territorial Plan for Civil Protection of Catalonia (PROCICAT) in a meeting this morning. He pointed out that the measures announced yesterday and published in the Official Newspaper of the Catalan Government (DOGC) will enter into force today, "we want to preserve health, economy and education activities in our country; therefore, we need to limit mobility and social interaction", he said.
Meritxell Budó pointed out that the regional lockdown “bans entering and leaving the territory of Catalonia, except for essential mobility cases”. He asked for a limitation of personal mobility, although he stated that "visiting cemeteries on October 31 and November 1 within the same region is allowed", as well as individual sports activities outdoors between neighbouring municipalities or mobility for prison permits. The Minister also insisted on "traveling only with the groups of coexistence", that is, groups of people living under the same roof, and this might also include carers.
The Minister informed that companies of essential services such as health, food or necessities will be allowed to open. With regards to trade, he explained that shopping centres and premises need to close, only establishments with an area equal to or less than 800m² can open, with a capacity of 30%. He also pointed out that cultural activities, such as those held in theatres or cinemas, are suspended.
Meritxell Budó also said that gathering must still be limited to six people and bars and restaurants cannot open yet, although they are still allowed to provide take-away delivery or pick-up services.
In the field of education, in-person activity will be maintained in schools and institutes. University teaching will be online and in-person attendance in non-obligatory education will be reduced. "All activities that can be done online, will be online, except for practical exercises or exams". Regarding leisure, activities for children and young people, school sports and extracurricular activities inside or outside the school for an educational or training purpose are suspended.
5,000 Regional Police Officers Will Patrol This Weekend
The Minister of Home Affairs thanked the citizens for limiting mobility, resulting in a 10% reduction at the entrances and exits of Barcelona and the metropolitan area in comparison to the first week of October, and a 20% reduction compared to the same period last year. During night curfew, mobility has fallen by 33% compared to the first week of October and 45% compared to the previous year. "This is the kind of co-responsibility we need" , he said.
Miquel Sàmper explained that the regional police will make sure the measures announced by the Government are being adopted: “We have the support of the regional police and more than 200 local police forces in Catalonia to guarantee no one leaves their towns or cities, Barcelona and the metropolitan area and the rapid areas of Catalonia, which will be controlled by the regional police”.
Sàmper explained there will be 5,000 police officers with exclusive dedication, a police presence at the level of the measures “to prevent mass mobility and limit the festivity only within the group of coexistence”.
The Curve Needs to be Flattened
On the other hand, the Minister of Health has stated that the epidemiological and care situation is "extremely critical and serious". "We are in the second wave and we must reach a decisive and firm turning point to lower the number of infections, currently unsustainable", he said, and he also insisted on "the need to flatten the curve and bend it”. Vergés regretted that, although in recent days there has been a slight slowdown in new cases due to the latest measures taken, it is “not enough”; a figure of more than 5,000 daily infections is an “unsustainable” figure.
Vergés emphasized that "our health system will not last much longer if this situation continues", because this Tuesday, for the first time since May, there are more Covid patients than patients with other pathologies in the ICUs, and health professionals need to leave their regular activity and focus only on this disease. The Minister of Health has explained that the projections indicate that, unless harsh measures are taken, in 15 days March's situation will be repeated.
Vergés reminded that the country and the health system have been preparing for months now. She explained that the number of beds has been increased from 600 to 1,000 since the beginning of the pandemic; provisions have been provided to the health system, and the tracking system, epidemiological surveillance and primary care have been strengthened.
The Minister asked for collaboration to reduce social interaction and mobility. She emphasized the importance of reaching a transmission rate lower than 1, a tendency of thousand daily cases and a maximum of 300 Covid patients in ICUs.