Debate on reopening nightlife intensifies as daily Covid transmissions at lowest levels in a year
8,000 attend mass drinking event on UAB university campus while more large street gatherings expected for Barcelona's La Mercè festivities
The debate on whether to reopen nightlife in Catalonia is once again intensifying, especially as the pandemic is, at the moment, under control.
Indeed, Sunday marked the lowest daily Covid-19 transmissions since June 2020, with only 119 new cases reported by PCR or antigen tests – and 146 also counting those diagnosed with antibody tests and others.
The outbreak risk has also reached its lowest point since summer 2020 as this indicator is at 73 as of September 19.
An outbreak risk of above 100 is considered to be 'high' risk and authorities deem anything above 200 to be 'very high' risk. It is calculated using an iEPG index, which is found by multiplying the average spread of the virus over the past seven days by the cumulative incidence over the past two weeks.
The remaining indicators are also evolving favorably, with the transmission rate at 0.86 – well under 1, the threshold above which authorities are concerned. The transmission rate indicates the number of people who get the virus per every positive case.
The number of people hospitalized due to Covid-19 has also been falling. At 595 on September 19, it is at levels similar to those before the fifth wave. There are also 204 patients who require ICU care, down from the 582 who did on August 8 at the peak of the latest wave.
8,000-strong illegal university party
Yet, not only has the sharp decrease in the incidence of Covid-19 reignited the debate on nightlife but so have the recent incidents on the UAB university campus last Saturday. Some 8,000 people attended an illegal party, while large street gatherings are also expected this weekend in Barcelona coinciding with La Mercè festivities, and in Tarragona for Santa Tecla celebrations.
A number of attacks, apartment break-ins and robberies, as well as a sexual assault were reported at UAB, which authorities believe might be have been plotted by organized groups.
Barcelona mayor: 'People want to go out'
The day after the incidents, Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, called for the reopening of nightlife ahead of La Mercè.
"Now that the curfew has been lifted and the cap on social gatherings has also been removed, and that authorities have sent out the message that with over 70% of the population vaccinated we can practically return to normal life but for face masks, people want to go out and recover their social life," she said in an interview with El Periódico.
"We think that the reopening of the nightlife sector must be considered because it would relieve some pressure on the Barcelona metropolitan area and would prevent a La Mercè 'call effect'."
Catalan government has 'very solid' figures against reopening
Yet, it is for the Catalan government to decide whether nightlife can reopen.
On Monday, interior minister Joan Ignasi Elena said that there are still "very solid" figures that confirm that keeping these businesses closed is the best option to fight against Covid-19, and added that once the indicators allow it, they will let night bars and clubs accept party-goers once again.
Shortly after the sector began to operate again this summer, Covid-19 transmissions skyrocketed to levels unprecedented since the first outbreaks and they were forced to close again.
At the moment, such businesses can open only their outdoor areas until 12.30 am, making it impossible for an overwhelming majority of them to operate.