6.500 people dispersed in Barcelona the first night without curfew

The Health Department defends that "the majority of the population" did not go to the concentrations and Batlle believes that the situation will "calm down"

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Hundreds of people gathered at Passeig de Lluis Companys, this Sunday at dawn.

BarcelonaUp to 6,500 people dispersed in some thirty different areas of Barcelona, such as Universitat square, the squares of Gràcia, Arc de Triomf and Bogatell beach, during the first night without curfew. After the state of alarm ended at midnight, some streets of Barcelona were filled with people who wanted to celebrate by drinking on the streets with music, without social distance and often without masks, as if it were a New Year's Eve party.

The general director of the Mossos d'Esquadra, Pere Ferrer, has affirmed that, except for some concentrations in Lleida, Girona and Cambrils, the majority of the agglomerations occurred in the Catalan capital and has described them as "intolerable, irresponsible and unsupportive". After recognising that this is a "minority" part of the population and that they expected to see this "champagne bottle" effect, he admitted that the authorities feel "a bit of disappointment". "The state of alarm is over, not the pandemic, self-responsibility has to prevail", he said in statements to Efe.

"The people who have been suffering and who continue to suffer do not deserve scenes like these. The people who are at the foot of the cannon, health and emergency teams, those who have had victims in their families, those admitted to hospitals, do not deserve these kind of images", insisted the director general of the Mossos, Pere Ferrer. "The risk is not that the police fine you, the risk is that you get infected and that you infect other people", said Ferrer, who has called for caution.

The lieutenant of Security of the Barcelona City Council, Albert Batlle, admitted in an interview on RAC1 that the images that have been seen on social networks are worrying because they show "acts of absolute irresponsibility", mostly starring young people, which is a group that is not yet receiving the vaccine. Batlle called for collective responsibility to prevent these images from being repeated in the future and hoped that the situation would "calm down" over the next few days. The night, he said, ended "without accidents" because the groups dispersed with the presence of the agents, but "some sanctions" were imposed.

The Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol, stressed that although many people went out on the streets after midnight, "the vast majority" of the population did not. In an interview on channel 3/24, he insisted that, after 195 days of curfew, "it is very important" to stress that the majority of citizens did not go to the gatherings, and that a sign of this behaviour is that the actions that the Mossos have had to take "have had nothing to do with" what was expected, according to the plan that had been prepared.

Eight-hour police operation

Aware that the recovery of freedom at night would encourage uncivic behaviour and crowds in the streets, the Mossos d'Esquadra and local police had prepared a special eight-hour operation, from midnight to eight in the morning, similar in size to those deployed during New Year's Eve or the festival of San Juan and very focused on the beaches. Speaking on Catalunya Ràdio, Batlle said that the aim of the security forces was to guarantee coexistence and public safety and minimise the risk of contagion.

This last point has been the most conflictive because people did not keep a safe distance and did not wear masks. "But most of the population understands that the fight against the pandemic is not over"; said Ramentol, who reiterated that, although the state of alarm has ended, it is necessary to use the mask, keep the distance between people and wash hands often.

Nightlife could reopen in summer

Batlle has assured that the reopening of bars and restaurants from Sunday until 11pm will prevent the repetition of concentrations in public spaces like those of this early morning, and recalled that the council is working with the health authorities to develop a sectoral plan for nightlife. The nightlife employers' association Fecasarm, however, denounces that the Generalitat's forecast is that this reopening could take "a couple of months" yet. This has been confirmed this Sunday by the Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol, who believes that these premises will be able to resume their activity at the beginning of the summer.

The doctor has attributed the closure of the sector to the Spanish government: "There is a statewide ban that prevents, for now, its opening in the form of a coordinated action taken by the Ministry of Health since August 14 last year". However, he has also admitted that he sees it as a wise measure considering that most of the regular customers of nightlife venues are young people, the group that has more social interaction, and that they are not yet vaccinated.

80% of people over 60 years old have the first dose

Ramentol stressed that Catalonia is experiencing days that mark "a turning point" but not so much for the end of the state of alarm as for the fact that 80% of Catalans over the age of 60 have already received at least one dose of the vaccine. This, he added, "was the first major objective of the vaccination campaign. The risk of premature death or admission to the ICU rises from the age of 60 onwards".

In fact, the Department of Health expects to administer a record 400,000 doses this week. "We hope to end May having vaccinated people over 50 years", predicted the Secretary General of Health. And so far the call is a success: only 24 hours after opening the first shifts for the population born between 1962 and 1965, 2.5 appointments per second are being given, with peaks of up to 5 vaccination schedules per second. In 12 hours more than 83,000 appointments were given. "Catalonia is responding to calls for vaccination in an exemplary manner", the Health Department states.