On a day when the official death toll from Covid-19 in Spain exceeded 40,000 since the start of the pandemic, authorities in several parts of the country announced new restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
The Catalan government on Thursday announced that bars and restaurants across the region will remain closed for an additional 10-day period in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Food and drink establishments have been closed for a month, and will remain so at least until November 23.
The measure has evidenced a division of opinion among the governing partners and it has also met with criticism from all affected sectors of the economy.
Under the new rules, gyms will also be closed and cultural activities placed on hold until November 23. But businesses offering “close physical contact such as beauty, massage and health services centers” may open as long as these services are provided on an individual basis, said Alba Vergés, the Catalan health chief, at a news conference. Places of worship may not accept more than 100 people at a time.
“We’re on the right track, the [coronavirus] tendency is good but not good enough, as we are at the peak of healthcare pressure and we need to flatten that curve as well,” said Vergés.
There are currently 583 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units, a figure far above what the Catalan healthcare system can handle without affecting the quality of care for non-coronavirus patients, said the regional health chief.
Catalonia’s governing partners disagree on the best way to handle the health crisis while protecting the economy.
Together for Catalonia (JxCat) defends easing restrictions and offering more support to entrepreneurs. The Catalan department of Enterprise and Knowledge was pushing to let bars and restaurants reopen their outdoor seating areas at 50% capacity between 1pm and 4pm beginning on Friday.
But the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which is in charge of the health department, feels that the restrictions are working and must be maintained in order to curb the second wave of the pandemic.
Self-isolating in Burgos
In Burgos, in the Castilla y León region, regional authorities are urging the population to self-isolate. The plea comes after the Spanish Health Ministry rejected the region’s request for mandatory home confinement in a part of Spain where the 14-day cumulative incidence is now 1,700 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants, compared with the national average of 514.
The regional government, led by a center-right coalition of the Popular Party (PP) and Citizens (Ciudadanos), has banned gatherings of more than three people from different households. Deputy premier Francisco Igea and regional health chief Verónica Casado said they will renew their request for home confinement, a measure that is up to central authorities.
“If I could make the decision to confine, knowing that such a measure reduces transmission, and keeping workers at home without hurting them financially, I would have done so already,” said Igea.
In recent weeks, the shelter-at-home option has been openly rejected by Health Minister Salvador Illa and other members of the Spanish government, which is headed by a center-left coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos.
Spain already experienced a full lockdown from mid-March to mid-June, during the first coronavirus wave. The Spanish economy has been more deeply affected than many other countries that also introduced restrictions on mobility.
At a Thursday news conference, Castilla y León officials said that in the meantime they are considering closing the borders of Burgos city and of the larger same-name province. The city of Burgos already experienced a two-week confinement from October 21, as did León, Palencia and Salamanca.
Castilla y León has also closed its bars and restaurants, although these businesses may still make home deliveries or offer take-out food. Shopping centers are closed but retail stores remain open. There is a 10pm curfew and the entire region is under a perimetral lockdown, meaning that nobody can enter or leave except on essential business.
English version by Susana Urra.