Two weeks after the closure of bars and restaurants and one week after the Government requested the state of alarm to apply the night curfew, Catalonia will take new measures to stop the spread of Covid. The situation, which according to the Department of Health is "critical" and "unsustainable", forces the government to take more measures, as well as the more than likely extension of existing restrictions. Three measures are being discussed: a weekend lockdown, as suggested by government spokesperson Meritxell Budó, a total lockdown for a fortnight, although it would require authorisation by a judge, and a perimeter confinement, i.e. restricting people from entering or leaving a given city or area. The latter is the only measure the Catalan could take immediately, as it is the only one considered in the central government's state of alarm.
"There will be new measures because we need them," said Health official Marc Ramentol at a press conference with the coordinator of the coronavirus monitoring unit in Catalonia, Jacobo Mendioroz. Beyond this, however, the government has not wanted to specify what these new restrictions will be and has simply stated all measures are being studied. "We do not have a manual for managing the pandemic. We need time to make the best possible decision," said Ramentol. In the morning, the head of the Health Department, Alba Vergés, told Cadena SER radio station that she preferred "not to speculate" and to announce the measures when they were "defined".
Both Ramentol and Mendioroz have been quite forceful in describing the country's epidemiological situation. They have said data indicate that the restrictions approved ten days ago are having some effect and that the pandemic, although growing, is doing so at a lower rate than in recent weeks. This is what Ramentol has defined as an "apparent slowdown": "The efforts are noticeable, they are not in vain", he wanted to make clear. However, the figures are still far from good. In fact, they are "unsustainable".
The average age of those infected continues to rise, and in the last few hours over 5,000 new positive cases have been diagnosed and 39 people have died. The cumulative incidence in the last 14 days has been almost 607.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double the figure of three weeks ago. EPG, which measures the potential growth of the pandemic, also continues to rise, and is now 887, 43 points higher than yesterday and almost double the maximum of the first wave, although far fewer tests were done then. "Our health system won't be able to cope it these figures continue," he warned.
Tense situation in hospitals
Indeed, the situation in hospitals is becoming increasingly complicated. Over 80% of intensive care units (ICUs) are occupied and in one week the number of Covid patients occupying these beds has risen sharply from 243 six days ago to 368. This represents 46% of the total; in other words, in the next few days ICUs will have more Covid patients than all other pathologies put together, a situation which has not taken place for months."The situation is critical and it is critical throughout the network and will continue to be so in the coming days," said Ramentol, who has warned that the second wave will once again require "overexertion" of health personnel.
Despite the complicated situation, the Health Department has not yet asked hospitals to make a "massive cancellation of scheduled activity" to be able to deal with Covid patients: "It is a red line that we do not want to cross, we cannot afford it," said Ramentol. Even so, some Catalan hospitals in the Terres de l'Ebre have begun to cancel operations. The pressure caused by the increase in Covid admissions and the outbreaks affecting hospital staff in Verge de la Cinta de Tortosa and Amposta have forced authorities to take measures.
Delays in PCR results
The pressure is also felt when it comes to managing PCRs. If there are delays in the delivery of PCR results, Ramentol said, it is due to the "large volume" of tests being done, a real "avalanche" that forces the system to do 30,000 PCRs a day, of which 20,000 are from close contacts of positives. Waiting lists could be shortenend with the help of antigen testing.
What would be harder to solve is the fact that, according to the Health Department, 40% of people who should be isolating -either because they are positive or have been in contact with someone who is- don't do so. The Health Department is aware that there are those who cannot isolate because of economic reasons or housing conditions, for example, but at the same time has urged people to "improve the degree of collective awareness" to cut the chains of contagion. Hence it has called for extreme caution this weekend, which coincides with the traditional festivities of the Castanyada and All Saints. "It is not time to celebrate Halloween or any activity where we interact with many people," an official stated.
Schools open but with "worrying" data
The Department of Health hopes to keep school open and is working to make them safe. However, mass testing suggests that the number of infected students has surpassed 10%, which the Department considers "very worrying" as it should be around 5%.
Infections do not commonly occur in schools, but as long as the number of infections in the community continues to rise, "it will be difficult to function in schools". Many children have been affected and are in isolation, which will make the school year "difficult".