Catalan Government changes to regional lockdown and expands hospitality industry opening times
Procicat will announce the new measures this morning
The Catalan government has decided to loosen covid restrictions. This includes extending opening times for bars and restaurants (7.30 am to 10:30 am and 1 pm to 4.30 pm). Travelling within counties (comarcas) will also be allowed, although Barcelona City Council's petition for allowing movement all around the metropolitan area has not been granted.
Bookshops will also be allowed to open on Saturdays, as they will be considered "cultural establishments". However, all other non-essential shops will have to close during the weekend. Gyms, on the other hand, will be allowed to open, but under the same restrictions as a month ago. This means they will have to limit capacity to 30% and will not be allowed to organise activities with over nine participants.
University students will be allowed to attend lectures again and music and dance schools that have been certified by the Education Department and prepare for formal training will be allowed to re-open, as long as they observe the safety measures.
Past the peak
Despite these slight concessions, the Health Department insists that is not "the moment to relax the big measures that help to control the evolution of the pandemic", in the words of Marc Ramentol, a high ranking official. Ramentol justified the fact that measures were being relaxed a couple of weeks after the government sought to suspend the elections, claiming the changes were only small and would cause only slight changes in mobility and social interactions. He also said that Catalonia was the first region to impose restrictions, so that it is only normal that it should be the first to lift them.
For three weeks now the number of cases has been falling. Today, for the first time since January 9, the number of admissions into ICU has decreased. This allowed Ramentol to claim that we are past the peak, although this doesn't mean we should cry victory; there are other "threats" that could change the trend in indicators at any time. These include the expansion of the British variant, the possibility that the South African and Brazilian variantes take hold, and the situation of healthcare. Although hospitals are still carrying out non-covid tasks, between 20% and 30% of non-urgent operations have had to be cancelled. Finally, the health Department is also worried about the slow rate of the vaccination campaign. Yesterday, only 5,600 injections were given, 12,000 fewer than Tuesday. In total, 88,697 care home residents and staff have received both doses, representing 1.1% of Catalonia's population.