Catalan Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, said on Thursday that renewing and extending the curfew at least fifteen more days is a logical decision to continue containing and flattening the coronavirus curve. Despite the fact that the extension is yet to be debated, Vergés has said that this measure binds the rest of the restrictions and that it is very likely that it will be extended. The first signs of a reduction in cases in the second wave of covid-19 in Catalonia, where the spread of the virus has dropped below 1, are good news for the Health department but they still do not allow lifting some of the restrictions, like the closing of bars and restaurants or the curfew. Vergés said measures cannot be rushed and explained that the government would decide on which restrictions to lift once the situation was stable.
Vergés has admitted that Catalonia is "on the right path" because the decrease in the rate of infections is "the result of the first restrictions". She has thanked the population for their effort to reduce mobility and social interaction. "This is what has improved the epidemiological indicators throughout the country," she indicated. The Minister of the Interior, Miquel Sàmper, has joined in the congratulations, claiming that the majority of the population complies with the rules. Nevertheless, the police have processed 15,200 administrative complaints against citizens for having broken restrictions in the last three weeks. Of these, 330 correspond to establishments, of which 13 have been forced to close.
Although the pandemic seems to be slowing down, Vergés has insisted improvements will take a few days to translate into a reduction in daily infections. "They will have to stay in place for some time to reduce the number of cases," she clarified. In the case of hospitalisations, it will take a few weeks. "It is very difficult to lower the number of infections, hospitalisations and ICU admissions," she pointed out. The critical care units are already at 85% of their capacity, and the director of the Servei Català de Salut (CatSalut), Adrià Comella, has warned that patients continue to walk in the door: in just one month, Catalan hospitals have passed from having 150 critical patients to almost 500. Every day, he said, eleven or twelve patients arrive.
Vergés admitted that it has been necessary to deprogram ordinary activity in some centers, but has assured that she is not afraid of a possible collapse of the health system because measures have been taken to avoid it. "The health system is prepared, it knows what to do, and we have taken measures not to put it on the ropes," he remarked. Now, the health authorities have admitted that they are overwhelmed by the volume of work. She has pointed out, however, that decisions have been made to ease the system, such as moving the flu vaccination campaign outside the CAP.
A "complicated" and different Christmas
Vergés has also advanced that Christmas will be "very complicated" and that "we will suffer." She has pointed out that it will be necessary to get the message across so people celebrate the holidays safely. That will happen by avoiding all meals in large groups and trying, insofar as possible, to hold celebrations outdoors. An example is the use of the mask, which Vergés insists must be worn whenever not eating or drinking.
The Minister of Culture, Àngels Ponsa, also referred to the celebration of Christmas, and claimed that the guidelines and recommendations are being finalised to maintain the parades on Twelfth Night. They are yet to be debated, but she informed that "events that attract large groups will not be held." The deputy director general of Civil Protection, Sergio Degaldo, affirmed that the "classic format of the parade is a red line" due to the risk of contagion implied by crowds. Some small municipalities may propose an itinerant parade that can be seen "from the window or the door of the house," Ponsa pointed out. Another possibility is that the celebration of the event takes place at noon and not at night.
"We are working on alternative formats that allow children and families to see the Kings," Delgado explained. Now, the Government underlines the need for everyone to "understand and assimilate" that it will be a different Christmas. This is not only in terms of the parade: if the current measures are still in place, meals with extended family and friends will be off the menu.