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A year of Covid-19: looking back at the pandemic in Catalonia

First patient was diagnosed on February 25, 2020 in Barcelona


25 February 2021 10:34 AM


Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

On February 25, 2020, and after weeks of watching the virus spread from afar, Covid-19 was no longer a distant worry in Catalonia: a 36-year-old Italian woman who had returned to Barcelona from a trip to northern Italy had tested positive for the virus.

Raquel González Urria, one of the nurses at the Catalan capital's Hospital Clínic that treated her, remembers this moment well.

"I was at home, I got a call, there was uncertainty, nobody knew what was coming," González Urria recalls, although she did feel a sense of relief knowing the woman was doing well clinically. "We were calm because she was a patient not at risk of developing serious symptoms," she says.

The date also carries special significance for Daniel Camprubí, one of the doctors at the same hospital who, alongside González Urria and others, cared for Catalonia's first coronavirus patient.

  • "Even though we might not notice it, we need psychological help"

    Daniel Camprubí · Hospital Clínic doctor

"At first, we were very motivated, we felt we had a big responsibility and that we were facing something that we didn’t exactly know about. But we were very motivated, we had incredible energy," he explains.

Yet, a year later, the strain of the pandemic has taken its toll. "We are all more downcast," Camprubí says of himself and his colleagues. "Even though we might not notice it, we need psychological help. We don't have it, but we will need it."

It has, indeed, been a rough year all around—a year in which society was forced to reconsider what it once took for granted, leading it to normalize what was once unthinkable. For those who wish to relive this process, this is what happened following Catalonia's first diagnosis:

March 6: An 87-year-old woman who had been admitted to the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona with severe respiratory problems and a fever becomes Catalonia's first and Spain's eighth Covid-19 casualty.

March 12: The first major Covid-19 measure in Catalonia catches most people off guard: Igualada and three other towns are placed on lockdown due to the higher than average prevalence of the virus in the area.

March 13: A day later, and only mid-way through the academic year, Catalonia's 1.8 million primary, secondary, and university students stay home as in-person learning at educational institutions comes to a halt.

March 14: Spain imposes a state of alarm in an attempt to stop the rapid spread of the disease. Residents can only leave home to buy basic goods, go to work, see a doctor, or take care of dependent people, while only essential businesses remain open.

April 14: Up to a million people in Catalonia who provide non-essential services are allowed to go back to their places of employment as the Spanish government lifted the ban on non-key workers going to their workplaces—not without the Catalan government's objections.

May 2: Catalonia emerges from 7 weeks of strict lockdown as people are finally allowed to leave home for reasons considered non-essential, such as walks or exercise, with time slots set according to age range.

May 8: Barcelona reopens its beaches during the morning exercise hours, allowing residents to jog, swim, or paddle surf for the first time in almost two months.

June 8: Catalonia is one step closer to the so-called "new normal" at the end of lockdown de-escalation scheme in which measures are eased gradually as Barcelona and Lleida progress to Phase 2, where indoor dining is permitted, and Tarragona, Ebre, and the western Pyrenees reach the final stage with no time slots and expanded capacity for businesses.

June 22: More than three months later, all of Catalonia exits the Covid-19 state of alarm. EU travel is allowed once again, although tourist activity is far scarcer than the previous year.

September 14: Students are allowed back into the classroom for in-person learning after a six-month hiatus but must follow enhanced health and safety measures including staggered arrival times, compulsory face mask use and temperature checks.

October 16: A slew of restrictions come into force as cases continue to surge, including, notably, the closure of all bars and restaurants except for takeaway and delivery.

October 25: Spain invokes a de-centralized state of alarm granting regional authorities greater executive powers to fight the spread of coronavirus. Catalonia imposes a 10 pm to 6 am curfew while all stores must close by 9 pm.

November 11: Discontent surrounding Covid-19 measures spills into the streets on multiple occasions as restrictions leave businesses, from gyms to restaurants, reeling.

December 27: After months of bad news, finally a glimmer of hope. Josefa Pérez, an 89-year-old nursing home resident in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, becomes the first person to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Catalonia.

February 14: Catalonia elects ousted president Quim Torra's successor in a vote marked by pandemic fears and a record-low turnout of 53%.