A new Covid-19 outbreak could lead to a fourth wave with up to 800 ICU patients

Authorities urge public to follow safety measures ahead of first weekend travel across Catalonia permitted

Catalan health minister Alba Vergés at a hospital on March 10, 2021 (Courtesy of Hospital del Berga)
Catalan health minister Alba Vergés at a hospital on March 10, 2021 (Courtesy of Hospital del Berga) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 18, 2021 02:35 PM

Catalan authorities are concerned the decrease in Covid-19 cases has come to a halt – especially taking into account that this weekend is the first one in which travel across Catalonia will be allowed since January 7.

In a press conference on Thursday, health minister Alba Vergés, called on the public to follow safety measures this weekend as well as over the coming weeks, including Easter.

According to the director of the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut), Adrià Comella, a new outbreak could lead to a fourth Covid-19 wave with up to 800 ICU patients – the current intensive care capacity is around 1,000.  

As of March 18, there are 423 people in intensive care unit beds due to the pandemic. The peak of the third wave was 731, while that of the second wave was 596, very far from the 1,529 seen during the first months of Covid-19.

Comella stated that at the beginning of the third wave, there were around 100 fewer ICU patients than there are now, which could make a potential fourth wave even more challenging for the health system.

First weekend without the county-level lockdown

The upcoming weekend will be the first with no county-level lockdown in place, but Vergés stressed that traveling beyond one's county is only allowed with members of the same bubble.

"We are recovering some social activity, but we have to do it prudently," she said.

"We are aware that this weekend there may be a change in mindsets and more mobility."

For her, this is not a problem in and of itself, as long as members of different bubbles do not interact – but Vergés urged people to only travel to destinations that comply with health and safety measures.

Vaccination pace to increase regardless of AstraZeneca

The health minister also said that the vaccination rollout is expected to speed up in the coming weeks because the number of Pfizer doses delivered per week will double.

The European Medicines Agency announced on Thursday evening that the AstraZeneca vaccine is "safe and effective" following an investigation into a possible causal relation between the jab and blood clots. Hours later, Spain announced it would resume AstraZeneca vaccinations next week. 

On Monday, Spain joined a string of other European countries and put AstraZeneca jabs on hold pending EMA findings on the matter, prompting Catalonia to sit on 127,000 vaccine doses.