CORONAVIRUS

Catalonia adopts more restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge

The regional government has confined the Segrià ‘comarca’ without detailing the measures, while L’Hospitalet has limited movement in three neighborhoods

People waiting outside Prat de la Riba primary healthcare center in Lleida on Tuesday.
People waiting outside Prat de la Riba primary healthcare center in Lleida on Tuesday.Alejandro Garcia / EFE

The Catalan regional government has introduced new lockdown measures in a bid to control the rising number of coronavirus cases in the northeastern Spanish region. The number of weekly infections in the territory jumped to 2,489 between July 6 and 12 – double the figure recorded in the previous week.

The new restrictions will affect the comarca of Segrià – a traditional administrative division that comprises 38 municipalities – and another six municipalities in the province of Lleida, and the municipality of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, located southwest of Barcelona.

In an effort to curb infections in these areas, Catalan authorities on Tuesday approved a resolution to introduce new lockdown rules, which include limits on movement and restricted capacity at public venues.

The new resolution was passed a day after a judge in Lleida annulled the government’s order to confine residents of the city and another seven municipalities in the comarca of Segrià to their homes. This order was blocked by the magistrate on the grounds that only the central government has the power to implement such confinement measures. Public prosecutors also criticized the measures, warning that the Catalan government did not have the power to legislate on fundamental rights. To circumvent the judge’s decision, the Catalan government passed a decree on Monday night that modified the region’s public health law to enable it to introduce certain restrictive measures.

The new restrictions, backed by this change, were approved by the magistrate in Lleida on Wednesday. But there was one exception: the magistrate ruled that the measures could not be applied in the municipality of Massalcoreig, given only three coronavirus cases have been detected there. The judge agreed that social gatherings were “a hotspot of contagion, contagions that are trying to be minimized as much as possible.” The magistrate did, however, limit the duration of the restriction to 15 days, after which point they can be extended if needed.

The resolution, however, has not been made public and the exact restrictions will not be known until it is published in the Official Gazette of the Catalan Government (DOGC) on Wednesday. Catalan authorities have refused to show the media a copy of the document.

According to Meritxell Budó, the spokesperson for the regional government, under the new resolution, entry to and from the affected municipalities in Lleida will be restricted, bars will be closed, restaurants will only be allowed to open for delivery and pick-up and residents will have to remain in their homes, unless leaving for work, to buy food, to take care of children or seniors, or to go for a walk with members of the same household. The resolution also bans social gathering of more than 10 people.

L’Hospitalet de Llobregat

The Catalan regional government has also ordered new lockdown rules in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a municipality southwest of Barcelona, where 300 coronavirus cases were detected in the last 15 days. Most of these infections have been reported in three neighborhoods: La Torrassa (which went from 18 to 62 cases in a week), Collblanc (eight to 36) and La Florida (11 to 30 in the northern area, and seven to 27 in the southern part).

In these neighborhoods, the Catalan government has called for social gatherings to be limited to up to 10 people and that capacity at bars and restaurants be set to 50% in indoor areas. The resolution also orders the closure of nightclubs, cinemas, theaters and sporting events, and recommends residents limit their movement and social engagements.

The measures were presented to a judge in Barcelona, who approved them all except for the limit on social gatherings. The magistrate argued that gatherings could be allowed if social distancing measures were respected.

With these restrictions, Catalan authorities hope to curb the spread of the virus in the high-density area, which is home to 100,000 residents. In Lleida province, the regional government has been criticized for not taking action sooner.

Criticism

The Catalan regional government has been heavily criticized for its management of the coronavirus outbreaks, particularly by residents in the comarca of Segrià who awoke to more confusion on Wednesday over the new lockdown rules.

“They are continually sending us contradictory information and in the end it’s all inconsistent and a lie,” complained Josep Maria Muñoz, a member of Lleida’s neighborhood association Som Veïns de Lleida. “They ask us to self-quarantine, they are putting fear in our bones, but neither the city hall or the rest of the administrations offer any help to store owners or the hotel industry.”

Muñoz also criticized the lack of support for seasonal fruit pickers in the area, who have been the main victims of the coronavirus outbreak in Lleida. “It makes no difference if the rest of the population goes into confinement if those most vulnerable continue on the street because there will continue to be community transmission,” he said.

Carmen Guerra, the head of the Bordeta de Lleida neighborhood association, agreed: “We are indignant because they are not telling us the truth. First we were confined, then we went outside respecting time slots, then safe distances and masks all to return to square one. All this plus the irresponsibility of the administrations will cause businesses to close again and many will not reopen. It will be chaos.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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