Cultural events to recover 100% capacity in under 15 days
Masks will be compulsory but not covid passes
Barcelona"The cultural sector will recover 100% capacity very soon, in under two weeks". Thus spoke Catalan Minister of Health Josep Maria Argimon, this Friday morning in an interview on TV3's Els matins. Argimon added that covid passes will not be required to access premises, although masks will have to be worn at all times. "Culture is a sector that we have always tried to keep open during the second wave and the third in spite of everything," he said.
Thus, cultural events will be able to sell all the tickets but audiences will remain masked. In fact, the minister gave no hint as to when masks will come off: "Masks will still be necessary in closed places or in open places with crowds. We are still in a pandemic, we do not believe it is over," he affirmed. Argimon has claimed that his department is aware of complaints from schools, for example, but remains cautious: "We know masks in schools are not optimal from a pedagogical point of view, but we must still be very cautious," he insisted. In this sense, the Health Department considers that schools will be one of the priority spaces to eliminate masks, but fears an upsurge of cases among children under 12. Therefore, Argimon explained that he believes it is more convenient to start removing mask mandates in places such as large shops "where people do not interact so much, just come in, buy and leave in a matter of minutes". "This is a season of colds and coronaviruses, and you can't put a date on removing masks yet. We have to see how days and weeks go by," he justified.
As for the third dose, Argimon explained that Government has not ruled out extending it to more age groups, but stressed that the information and scientific evidence on its use "is still scarce" and will require analysing the risks and benefits of adding a third dose in detail. "A third generalised dose is not ruled out, but we will start with the elderly, along with the flu vaccines, and then analyse if we go down [in age groups]," he said.
The saturation in primary care
On the situation suffered by doctors and nurses in primary care, with many telephone visits that saturate some services, Minister Argimon has explained that "the centres will be recovering normality little by little". "At the beginning we recommended not to go to health centres spontaneously and, in fact, this has had very beneficial elements such as for example an increase from 900,000 to more than 4 and a half million users on [the Health Department's] My Health portal. We have increased the variety in the ways of accessing the doctor," argued Argimon, who has clarified that although centers will recover presentiality little by little, new normality will also incorporate the new forms of virtuality.
On the budget that should be allocated to primary care, Argimon explained that the Government "will make every effort" to allocate 25% of the total health budget to primary care, but even so he recalled that the figure currently stands at 12%.
Prioritising mental health
The department that Argimon leads also presents today a new program to improve mental health care, coinciding with the world day of Mental Health. This is a new programme with 150 psychologists who will be incorporated into health centres to promote and prevent emotional well-being problems. "These professionals will not be directly consulted by patients," Argimon admitted. The Government also wants to strengthen mental health centres with a dozen teams of direct and home care for the most serious cases. "These teams will begin to form now in November," Argimon said. "In Catalonia we invest 5% of our health budget in mental health, while in other countries it is around 8% or 9%" he warned, adding that adequate funds were needed in order to improve.