The Catalan authorities will not order a unilateral full lockdown in Catalonia in order to thwart the spread of SARS-CoV-2 unless they receive “Madrid’s legal assurance” first. Meritxell Budó, the Catalan government’s spokesperson, explained that they would “require authorisation from the Spanish government”. The Minister of the Interior, Miquel Buch, added that they would be “jeopardising the livelihood of employees and companies” otherwise. Catalonia is not the only Spanish region to insist on tougher measures against the virus and Budó cited Madrid city, Andalusia and Murcia as other examples. She remarked that she was hoping “the Spanish authorities” wouldn’t wait “as long as Italy’s before implementing more stringent measures” and she went on to say that Italy has only done so after one month of “partial lockdown”. The Catalan government’s spokesperson said she was hopeful that the Spanish prime minister would sanction a total lockdown “sooner or later”.
Budó also insisted on the need to ensure that the entire population of Catalonia stays at home and no means of transport are allowed to operate at all. Key services and transport of basic consumer goods to production and distribution facilities would be exempt from the ban. For weeks now the Spanish government has come under fire over its reluctance to adopt radical measures against the ongoing public health crisis. Budó stated that “if there is one thing this government won’t hesitate about is choosing lives over the economy, if push comes to shove” and she announced that the Catalan government has asked Madrid to provide a tax holiday and a more substantial loans fund for struggling businesses, and she emphasised that these measures aim to uphold workers’ rights.
Health Minister Alba Vergés argued that “in order to ease the strain on our health service, people must be able to stay at home without having to worry about wages and paying their bills” and she admitted she was particularly concerned about patients in intensive care units (ICUs). She explained that “we have patients aged 20-50 in ICUs” but didn’t offer details about how the disease is affecting older age groups. She claimed that this is why the best option to avoid the breakdown of the health care system is to tighten the confinement measures.
740k respondents have taken the test
While she didn’t say how many places were available in ICUs, Vergés did state that their capacity had doubled after bringing in private facilities and adapting other hospital services so they may admit serious cases of COVID-19. She also said that she had been in touch with her Spanish counterpart, Salvador Illa, and they had discussed the shipment of fast testing kits for COVID-19 from Madrid, among other issues. The Catalan minister stated that she didn’t expect the kits to arrive in Catalonia “before Thursday” and she remarked that the Catalan ministry will determine where they are to be used, once they become available. They will be used mainly by carers working in homes for the elderly and health care professionals.
On the subject of StopCovid19Cat, the mobile app developed by the Catalan government that should allow the authorities to monitor individuals presenting with symptoms of COVID-19, Vergés announced that up to 740,000 users have completed the quiz so far. Major symptoms were reported in 4,200 cases, which are being supervised by the 061 [hotline service] while a further 107,000 exhibit mild symptoms and are being monitored by their local health centre. The remaining 628,800 respondents did not report any symptoms whatsoever.
Budó mentioned that last Sunday public transport services saw a drop of 85-95 per cent in the number of travellers. For instance, trams were only used by 2,100 people, whereas on a normal Sunday that figure would rise to over 33,000 Likewise, traffic in and out of the Barcelona metropolitan dropped by 60 per cent.
Despite the decrease in traffic in the streets and on roads, Interior Minister Miquel Buch explained that the desired drop in mobility has not been achieved yet. A total of 8,700 people and 4,500 vehicles were caught ignoring the rules set by Spain’s state of emergency decree. Buch added that the Spanish government has put Catalonia “in a straight jacket” and he was emphatic that there is “no need to stockpile food” or other basic supplies because, despite the recommended lockdown on all the population, “the supply chain is guaranteed”.