CORONAVIRUS

Catalan government confines residents of Segrià in Lleida due to rising coronavirus cases

The ‘comarca,’ which is home to more than 200,000 inhabitants, has seen outbreaks in several food companies, a senior residence and a hostel

A police checkpoint at Segrià today.
A police checkpoint at Segrià today.Ramón Gabriel / EFE

The Catalan regional government on Saturday confined residents of the comarca of Segrià, in Lleida, given the rising number of coronavirus cases that have been detected there. The affected area is in the south of the province, on the border with neighboring Huesca and Zaragoza provinces, and contains 38 municipalities, including the city of Lleida.

The comarca – a traditional administrative division in parts of Spain – holds a population of slightly more than 200,000 inhabitants, and occupies 1,400 square meters of land.

Catalan regional premier Quim Torra announced the measure at midday after a meeting with the Catalan Civil Protection Territorial Plan (Procicat), as well as deputy premier Pere Aragonès and other government ministers.

The confinement of Segrià began at 12pm on Saturday, and until 4pm any non-residents in the area were permitted to leave, while residents were allowed to enter. From that deadline onward, no one has been able to enter or leave, with the exception of those who need to for work. The restrictions also affect transport, trade and business activities.

The decision has been communicated to the courts, and will be in place until a new resolution is passed. A Catalan minister suggested today in a radio interview that it could last around 15 days. “It will depend on the epidemiological progress,” he said. After that period, the lockdown can be extended with the permission of the courts.

A total of 25 units of the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have been deployed in the area in order to ensure that the confinement is respected, according to the Catalan government. Torra said that the decision had been “difficult” but had been taken to guarantee citizens’ health and because he considered protecting life to be a priority. The premier added that he had given orders to the Mossos to fine anyone who does not comply with the order.

Catalan health chief Alba Vergés called for citizens in the area to respect the three basic measures to avoid contagion: social distancing, hand washing and the use of face masks. She also called on people to reduce family meetings “as much as possible,” with limits now in place of 10 people for such gatherings. Day centers for seniors will also remain closed during the confinement.

Public transport will continue to operate in the area in order to guarantee citizens can move around for work purposes and so that essential services continue to function. The Catalan government has recommended that citizens do not leave their municipalities, in particular seniors. Visits to senior homes have also been suspended.

A “social crisis”

The health department reported on Friday that there have been 4,030 registered coronavirus cases in the Lleida province, 60 more than those detected on Thursday, when the number of new cases went up by 128 compared to the previous day. The outbreaks have been detected in four fruit companies, a food firm, a senior residence, a residential block, and a hostel for homeless people.

“The crisis in Lleida is not just health-related, but also social,” said Vergés, an implicit reference to the relationship between the increase in infections and the presence of seasonal workers to collect fruit as well as those in a socially vulnerable situation.

The regional government has installed a field hospital next to the Arnau de Vilanova healthcare center in Lleida, to help the system cope with the increase in coronavirus cases.

The move by the Catalan government today marks the first confinement since the state of alarm expired in Spain on June 21. The state of alarm was implemented by the Spanish government in mid-March and the lockdown across the country was one of the strictest in the world. Spain went through an asymmetrical deescalation process, which officially came to an end on June 21, when the central government introduced a law covering what it has dubbed “the new normality,” and control over measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus was handed to Spain’s regions.

English version by Simon Hunter

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