The Secretary of Health, Marc Ramentol, has said that the new restrictions to stop the spread of covid-19 will be extended for as many days as "necessary". If these measures do not work in the next fifteen days and cases continue to rise, the Catalan government does not rule out urging the Spanish Government to consider total lockdown. Although Ramentol claimed it would always be "the last alternative", he has admitted that all measures must be considered when it comes to controlling the epidemic. In statements to TV3, Ramentol explained that in recent days a "slowdown" has been noted in the number of cases but not in the impact on the healthcare system and said that the goal is to drop from the current 5,500 daily cases to about 1,800 - the sort of numbers recorded in late August and early September.
"The goal is not to stabilise the curve, but to flatten it," said Ramentol. The secretary has defended the restrictions put in place two weeks ago, such as the closure of bars and restaurants, arguing that they have already begun to bear fruit. If nothing had been done, he said, the Health Department had forecast 10,000 cases a day. Now the cases have been reduced by half, but Ramentol insists that the rate of contagion is "unsustainable" and endangers the maintenance of non-covid care activity in health centres.
The coordinator of the covid-19 monitoring unit in Catalonia, Jacobo Mendioroz, explained that the data from the last few days has improved a little, with a delay in the speed of the virus's propagation, but he assured that the curve continues to climb. He pointed out that contagion isslowing in every region and that the country as a whole has gone from an R number of 1.5 to 1.3, "but this does not lessen the gravity of the situation", he insisted, "it helps us to be a little optimistic but we cannot lower our guard. The possibility of community contagion is very high and we have to take every precaution," he warned.
Ramentol has warned that more restrictive measures have been introduced because there has been no reduction in the pressure on healthcare. Hospital admissions continue to rise: 85% of ICU beds (877) are occupied, and of these, 52% (447) are already allocated to covid-19 patients. Coronavirus also accounts for 13% of emergency hospital care and 20% of emergency primary care. In addition, infections in nursing homes have not stopped: there are already 1,377 residents affected, and 13% of the centres have at least one case.
Antigen tests also for close contacts
Laboratories are receiving a flood of PCR samples for analysis, with peaks of 48,000 tests per day. In addition, the Health Department has announced that one million of the three million purchased antigen tests have already been distributed among primary care centres and hospitals far from urban centres. "We are improving the implementation of antigen tests and we are already doing 39,000", said Ramentol. The doctor said that the use of antigen tests has been intensified in Barcelona, tripling the tests done, to free up the clinical resources of the laboratory of Vall d'Hebron Hospital, which is quite saturated this week.
Ramentol stated that these rapid tests are mainly being given to people with symptoms, but has recognised that they hope to extend them in the coming weeks to asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases. "If everything goes well, we will implement this strategy throughout Catalonia in the coming weeks," anticipated Ramentol.
The department is also finalising everything necessary to enable the recruitment of final year nursing and medicine students, as was done during the first wave, explained Ramentol. The state of alarm allows for such measure, which is being examined by legal experts. Further announcements are expected today.