The Catalan regional government on Monday approved new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. The new plan will see a perimetral lockdown for municipalities, preventing movement between them, as well as the closure of shopping malls and other non-essential stores.
The measures will come into force on Thursday, January 7 – the day after a national holiday for Kings’ Day.
The epidemiological data in Catalonia is worsening every day, with the latest figures from the regional health department showing that the speed of transmission, known as the Rt number, has risen from 1.11 points on Sunday to 1.27 today. The pressure on hospitals also continues to rise, with 2,084 patients currently receiving treatment in the region, of whom 392 are in intensive care units (ICUs).
The general secretary for public health in the region, Josep Maria Argimon, called for “the rhythm to fall” in Catalonia, saying that it is not just necessary to “slow the virus, but to stop it.” Argimon added that the goal is to have very restrictive measures over a short period time so that activity can restart from January 18.
Shopping malls will have to close all week, while other stores will be able to open provided that they are no bigger than 400 square meters. All non-essential businesses will be closed over the weekend to avoid crowds. This will have a direct effect on the upcoming sales season, which usually begins just after Kings’ Day.
Until now, Catalonia had been under mobility restrictions for municipalities during weekends and in comarcas – a historical territorial division in parts of Spain – from Monday to Thursday. The measures had been relaxed over the Christmas season, given that mobility was permitted for the entire region to visit relatives or even for tourism purposes provided a hotel reservation had been made. Only the Cerdanya and Ripollès comarcas were under a perimetral lockdown.
The data for the region points to a third wave, with 1,319 new infections and 32 Covid-related deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The figures are lower than those for the previous day, but the progress over recent days of other indicators shows that the pandemic is advancing unchecked. The positivity rate of PCR and antigen tests, for example, has risen to 9.51%, four points up on the figure seen on December 21.
In terms of the vaccination campaign, health department data show that 8,293 vaccinations have been administered so far in Catalonia, which is barely 14% of the 60,000 that the region received last week. This means that just 519 vaccines were administered on Sunday.
English version by Simon Hunter.