Meetings of more than six people remain illegal, attendance in places of worship will be limited and no face-to-face classes will take place at the universities after the Catalan Supreme Court has backed the restrictions limiting the exercise of fundamental rights imposed by the Catalan Government to combat the surge in coronavirus cases. The Government took action yesterday, pushing through a first set of measures, and today bars and restaurants have only been allowed to serve takeaways, whilst the number of clients allowed in shops was reduced by 70%.
However, the ruling makes it clear that the decision is taken as a matter of urgency. Hence, the endorsement is limited to restrictions that affect fundamental rights and does not imply that the ruling is firm and will remain favourable once a more in-depth analysis of the measures and the arguments of possible appeals is carried out. This gives hope to the appeals that may be lodged against the measures.
Nevertheless, the court makes it clear that the "colossal and extraordinary relevance" of the emergency caused by the impact of the coronavirus requires swift action. In this sense, it takes into account the data from the Catalan government, which, in the latest report it sent to the court, stresses that most outbreaks are occurring among young people - especially those of university age - and in the context of family meetings.
The Catalan Ministry of Health also recalls that the recommendation at international level is to limit interaction from 50 positives per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the last two weeks in Catalonia as a whole there have been, on average, 268 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, the risk of contagion is becoming increasingly greater, because each positive can infect on average 1.3 people and that the system is gradually becoming congested. In fact, in five of the eight health regions 30% of critical patient beds are occupied.
Debate on "safe bubbles"
Based on this data, the court considers that it is proportionate to restrict the right of assembly, attendance at religious events and lectures at universities, which, it points out, "is not understood as a complete restriction, but rather as a change in the way in which teaching is to be done. However, in the case of the prohibition of meetings of more than six people, the judges warned the government that it could not cancel the right of assembly altogether under the pretext of guaranteeing "safe bubbles".
On the other hand, one of the judges wrote a dissenting opinon pertaining to this point precisely. This judge argues in that the way the government's current measures are expressed, they are not liable to being repelled as a violation of fundamental rights.
In her dissenting opinion, the judge recalled that the CSC has evaluated the government's new proposal and has already authorised the rule of six. She also asserted the need to minimise the risk of contagion despite the right of assembly. "We have the right to meet to contribute all that we are and have as people, but not to contribute the virus," she stresses.