Society 20/08/2021

High Court only allows extension of curfew in 19 towns, not including Barcelona

Catalan government hoped to extend the measure in 148 towns

2 min
La Rambla in Barcelona during the curfew.

BarcelonaCatalonia's High Court has only upheld an extension of the curfew for 19 of the 148 municipalities where the Catalan Government wanted it to stay in force. The biggest one, Barcelona, has been left out of the restrictions to stop the advance of covid-19. Thus, the curfew between one and six in the morning is only authorized in the towns of Alcarràs, Amposta, Arenys de Munt, Badia del Vallès, Balaguer, Banyoles, Calafell, Celrà, Cervelló, Gelida, Manlleu, Martorell, Montblanc, Móra d'Ebre, Palafolls, Salt, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Sarrià de Ter and Torroella de Montgrí, as reported by the court. The TSJC has authorised the 10-person limit on social and family gatherings throughout Catalonia, as well as a 30% reduction in maximum attendance in religious acts and civil ceremonies.

The Prosecutor's Office had already ruled in favor of maintaining the curfew only in municipalities with a cumulative incidence at 7 days (CI7) of 400 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Government wanted it to apply to all municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants where CI7 exceeded 125 and those that were surrounded by populations where it was the case. The TSJC recalls, however, that the previous resolution set the threshold at a CI7 of 250. "It is not for this court to establish that one technical criterion is more appropriate than another," the ruling states, but claims that it does have a duty to ensure that the measure is "suitable" and "proportionate" to fight the pandemic. It adds that the resolution of the Catalan government does not explain why this criterion - the tightening of the CI7 threshold to 125 - which had not been applied before due to "technical reasons", is now "suddenly" appropriate.

The court also recalls that, according to the supporting report by the Public Health Agency, "the indicators are falling and, therefore, the measures taken so far have proved effective," although the document argued that the latest measures "have not yet given enough time to observe a sustained and high impact on the downward evolution of the epidemic curve," especially "in the indicators of occupancy of conventional beds and critical beds" in hospitals in Catalonia. The ruling claims that it does not question the severity of the pandemic, but that the Government would have to "explain the reason why the technical criterion previously considered" have now become "not very accurate".

The TSJC argues, then, that halving the threshold of 250 "in principle is a suitable criterion for its health purpose" but the Government does not explain why it is a "proportionate" measure, nor why there is no other "equally suitable but less intrusive" measure. Therefore, it has only ratified the measure only following the previous thresholds. This means towns above 5,000 inhabitants with a CI7 of 250 or more. As the incidence of the pandemic has dropped considerably in the last week, this greatly reduces the number of municipalities that will be affected by the curfew. As for the night confinement for the municipalities that were surrounded, the TSJC says the measure "lacks, more than evidently, the necessary justification", and also dismisses it. In fact, it says that it was justified more on security reasons than on health reasons, which are the only ones that could support it. As for the limitations on attendance at family and social gatherings and civil and religious events, the TSJC sees them as "duly justified" measures.

For the new curfew to come into force, the Government will have to publish it in the official gazette.