Less populated territories demand looser mobility restrictions for bank holiday weekend
They warn that businesses cannot live off the town's residents alone
GironaSixteen of Catalonia's 42 counties have asked the Department of Health and Procicat to loosen restrictions on mobility ahead of the 8th December bank holiday, allowing movement within Catalonia's least populous counties a few days before currently scheduled. Despite belonging to distant and varied territories, they all have the following in common: most are made up of small towns and villages that do not have all the basic services, and the few establishments that do exist cannot subsist on local clients alone and are accumulating losses. "Since people cannot leave the town, what do they do? They buy through companies like Amazon who deliver to their homes. These companies are making a lot of money and the ones in the territory are having a very tough time", explains the president of the Segrià regional council and mayor of Mieres, David Masot (JxCat).
The first person who made the demand to the department of Health and Procicat was the mayor of Sort, Raimon Monterde (Som Poble), who, at the beginning of November, asked for the regional mobility to be allowed during the weekend, arguing that the Pallars Sobirà has a density of 5 inhabitants per sq. km. and that there are about 7,000 citizens living in the whole region. The rest of the municipalities of Pallars Sobirà, and the regional councils of Pallars Jussà, Alt Urgell, Cerdanya, Alta Ribagorça and Ripollès quickly joined his demand.
In addition, the counties of Gironès, Alt Empordà, La Selva, La Garrotxa, Pla de l'Estany, Solsonès, La Segarra, Baix Penedès, Les Garrigues and El Segrià have recently made the same request. All of them request that the weekend lockdown - in principle to be lifted on 9th December - be brought forward to adapt the health restrictions to the reality outside the Barcelona metropolitan area.
"There are more people in any block of flats in Barcelona than in many of our towns", recalls the president of the Garrigues regional council and mayor of La Floresta, Jaume Setó (JxCat). "A city like Badalona has more inhabitants than the whole Pla de l'Estany region, La Garrotxa or Ripollès", adds the president of the Pla de l'Estany regional council and mayor of Porqueres, Francesc Castañer (IdP-ERC).
Both Setó and Castañer - and the other municipal representatives requesting the measure - suffer, above all, for the survival of local businesses. "For example, in the village of Sant Miquel (250 inhabitants) there is a hostel with a restaurant. But if at the weekend it can only serve the villagers, the numbers don't add up. And it is important to understand that these establishments are indispensable for the village, because, in addition to restaurants, activity centres around them: people go to buy the bread, the newspaper...
Doubts about regulations
All of the counties consulted emphasise that priority must be given to measures to stop the virus, but they are also committed to adapting the restrictions to the reality of each territory. "In Solsonès there are only two municipalities with an urban centre, Solsona and Sant Llorenç de Morunys. The rest are all scattered villages, with a shortage of shops to buy essential products," says the president of the regional council of Solsonès, Sara Alarcón (ERC).
His counterpart in the Garrigues explains that the regulations allow you to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy, but it is not clear whether you can go to another municipality to go to the hardware store or to buy clothes: "And people are afraid to go out because, if you are stopped, you may be fined or not depending on the police officer's interpretation of your purchase". In this sense, counties such as Alt Urgell also believe that a regional confinement "would facilitate mobility surveillance by the Mossos d'Esquadra [police]", according to the president of the regional council and mayor of Ribera d'Urgellet, Josefina Lladós (JxCat).
Exceptions due to infection figures
However, other territories with similar characteristics and where businesses are also suffering from the lack of weekend visitors, such as Osona or the Vall d'Aran, recognise that the epidemiological data they record would not allow the weekend confinement to be extended. "Osona has had very bad stats and two municipalities, Vic and Manlleu, have been very badly affected, and I would not accelerate the easing of restrictions," admits with concern the president of the county council and mayor of Sant Julià de Vilatorta, Joan Carles Rodriguez (ERC). Aran Council agrees: "Our figures of contagion today are high and require maximum respect for the measures to lower the rate of infection."
In fact, all the counties believe that this easing of restriction would only apply if incidence stayed low, but they demand from the Generalitat "a better analysis of the pandemic across the territory at the time of applying the restrictive measures that delay the socioeconomic dinamisation", as the president of the council of the High Ribagorça and mayoress of Vilaller, Maria Jose Erta Ruiz (JxCat), puts it.