CORONAVIRUS

Barcelona looks to restrict social activities in a bid to combat significant rise in coronavirus cases

A reduction on the capacity of restaurants, bars and the city's beaches is currently being considered by Mayor Ada Colau

A PCR test is carried out at a hospital in Hospitalet, in Barcelona province.
A PCR test is carried out at a hospital in Hospitalet, in Barcelona province.Emilio Morenatti / AP

The authorities in Barcelona are moving toward implementing more substantial measures to combat the new coronavirus outbreaks that are threatening the city. With 29 active outbreaks and the epidemiological curve moving upward, the Catalan capital is finalizing a series of measures to restrict social activity.

City Hall is expected to put limits on leisure activities and group sports, among other restrictions. But, municipal sources stated, there are no plans to confine citizens to their homes.

The final measures, which are awaiting consensus between local and regional authorities, will arrive at a time when infections are on the rise throughout Catalonia. The authorities notified 1,300 new daily cases on Thursday, most of them in Barcelona and the metropolitan area. The most worrying outbreaks are still in the Segrià comarca – a traditional territorial division in parts of Spain – where there is community transmission, and in L’Hospitalet, a municipality located just southwest of Barcelona, and which is seeing significant growth in cases.

This rise in cases is very worrying, and we are starting to see patients with Covid-19 arriving at hospitals and health centers
Jacobo Mendioroz, head of Catalonia's Covid-19 unit

City Hall sources confirmed on Thursday that the restrictions will limit transmission in places where leisure activities are practiced. Health chief Gemma Tarafa stated that they would be aimed at “reducing social meetings.”

According to health department figures, Barcelona has seen 285 infections confirmed by PCR tests since Monday, meaning that these are active cases. Last Friday, there were 264 new cases registered in a single day.

A reduction in the capacity of the city’s beaches is one of the measures on the table. Currently, when they reach 80%, the city closes the sands and forces bathers to move to other beaches. What is yet to be decided is by how much the capacity will be reduced.

Also being studied are changes to cleaning protocols, so that water and bleach can be used on the outside of strategic buildings such as markets, supermarkets and healthcare centers, as was carried out while Spain was under a state of alarm earlier this year in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau may also reduce the capacity allowed in bars and restaurants, as has already happened in three neighborhoods of L’Hospitalet after a significant rise in cases was seen. In these areas, restaurants are limited to 50% of capacity inside, the bar must be closed and outdoor tables must be two meters apart.

Until the measures are finalized, both city and regional authorities agree that the situation in the Catalan capital is worrying. “We have started to have cases in other neighborhoods of Barcelona that are further away from the outbreak zone,” said Jacobo Mendioroz, the head of the Covid-19 monitoring unit in Catalonia. “This rise in cases is very worrying [...], and we are starting to see patients with Covid-19 arriving at hospitals and health centers.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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