Catalan premier Quim Torra warned on Monday that stricter lockdown measures may be introduced if the coronavirus outbreaks in the northeastern region ae not brought under control.
“The situation is too critical not to be taken seriously. The increase in outbreaks is worrying,” said the regional leader at a press conference on Monday. “We are facing the 10 most important days of this summer, to find out whether, with the solidarity of all, we are able to slow down this critical situation. Because if we don’t achieve this, we will have to go back [to stricter measures].”
During the news conference, Torra appealed to people to show individual responsibility, reduce social contact and limit gatherings to members of the same household.
Catalonia has seen a dramatic spike in Covid-19 infections, with the 14-day cumulative incidence of the virus at 115.57 cases per 100,000 inhabitants
Catalonia has seen a dramatic spike in Covid-19 infections, with the 14-day cumulative incidence of the virus at 115.57 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national average of 39.4. There is now community transmission in the Segrià comarca – a traditional administrative area in parts of Spain – in Lleida province, in the Figueres municipality in Girona province, and in the city of Barcelona.
According to Torra, the number of new coronavirus cases in the region grew from around 3,500 to close to 5,500 in the space of a week. Although transmission is beginning to stabilize in Segrià and Figueres, it continues to rise across the region, especially in Barcelona and its metropolitan area. “Faced with this situation, the regional government will take the decisions that correspond to each moment,” said the Catalan premier.
In response to the rising number of coronavirus cases, France, Germany and Belgium have urged their citizens to avoid travel to Catalonia. The British government has reimposed quarantine measures for travelers from Spain, and Belgium has taken the additional step of banning all trips to Lleida. Although Torra acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, he tried to send a message of calm. “Catalonia is a safe tourist destination,” he said in English. “There are outbreaks in some areas, but Catalonia is a responsible tourist destination,” he insisted.
The Catalan government has already introduced some lockdown measures in a bid to curb contagion. Authorities began by limiting social contact in several areas of Catalonia, such as reducing occupancy in bars and banning gatherings of more than 10 people. On Friday, the regional government went one step further and ordered the closure of all nightclubs and party venues in Segrià, Figueres and Barcelona. Bars and restaurants in these areas must also close by midnight.
Torra has called on the regional interior department and local governments to issue fines “with severity” to anyone caught breaking the rules. “Today a botellón is not a party, it is an act that shows a lack of solidarity,” said Torra, in reference to outdoor drinking sessions.
On Sunday, around 400 people gathered for Mass at a Catholic church in Barcelona, despite the regional government’s recommendations that residents stay at home and avoid non-essential travel. What’s more, the ceremony was not authorized by Procicat, the regional body responsible for coordinating the response to the pandemic. Torra said on Monday that he had instructed the health department to launch sanctioning proceedings against the archbishop of Barcelona for breaching the resolution from Procicat. “Every one is the same: a citizen, a business or the Church,” said Torra. “This is not about us limiting the right to worship, but rather about ensuring the health of citizens.”
Torra added that 400 coronavirus managers had been sent to primary healthcare centers to help ease the strain from the surge of coronavirus cases. Hospitals in the region are also feeling the pressure, with intensive care admissions rising from 49 on July 1 to 75. “It is necessary to transfer the tension to hospital centers. If we don’t achieve this, we know already what the next move will be,” said Torra, alluding to stricter confinement measures.
English version by Melissa Kitson.