10pm curfew to be extended two more weeks
'We cannot rush,' says health minister on possible partial reopening of bars, as cultural venues could open in late November
The 10 pm curfew introduced on October 25 will be extended, likely for two more weeks from next Monday when it is set to expire.
This was confirmed by the Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, on Thursday morning in an interview with Ràdio 4 and afterwards in a press conference. "It will continue for sure," she said.
The restrictions imposed in the past few weeks are having an effect, as the transmission rate fell below 1 for the first time in a month, and other metrics are gradually moving in a positive direction too.
Yet, pressure in hospitals is still high and is not expected to reduce for another few weeks – ICUs bed occupancy is currently at 85%, and demand would exceed 100% if the number of intensive care units had not been increased from 575 to 1,000 beds in the past few months. A total of 485 people suffering from Covid-19 are using ICUs.
According to Adrià Comella, director of the Catalan health service, medical centres are filling up, as at the moment roughly 10-12 more people are hospitalised each day than the amount discharged.
Reopening bars and other measures
As for the closure of bars and restaurants, Catalan health minister Alba Vergés did not rule out a partial opening of such businesses soon, such as their terraces.
Yet, she urged patience: "we cannot rush." On November 13, the measures currently applied are set to expire, including the weekend partial lockdown, the closure of borders, cultural venues, gyms, bars and restaurants and other measures to limit social life – by then, the Catalan government will have to decide whether to extend them.
The health minister also insisted on the idea of a different Christmas season this December, in which large family gatherings "have to be totally avoided." For her, the best formula for this festive time will be reduced, spaced out meetings.
Vergés made clear that this Christmas will be "very complicated" due to the second wave of Covid-19.
In parallel, the culture minister, Àngels Ponsa, was confident that "around late November" venues such as concert halls, theatres and cinemas will be able to operate again.
In an interview with Catalunya Ràdio, she said by that time, cultural venues will have "a certain normality," given that the Covid-19 figures are improving.
Yet, she warned that not all sectors will open at the same time, and according to her, the music industry is the one most badly damaged.
Compliance of rules
Catalan authorities have welcomed the level of compliance of the latest restrictions.
The interior minister, Miquel Sàmper, said that the road traffic at night has reduced by a third compared to an equivalent night before the curfew this year, and by 44% compared to 2019.
So far the Catalan and local police have reported 15,258 people in the past few weeks for skipping the regulations.
He also reminded that on Friday at 6 am a new weekend municipal lockdown is enforced, and around 5,000 Mossos d'Esquadra officers will be deployed to ensure compliance.