Covid-19 restrictions currently in place extended until January 24
Municipality-level lockdown, shops of over 400m2 and shopping malls closed among measures set to be in force one more week
The Catalan government has extended the Covid-19 restrictions in force for one more week, facing the sharp worsening of the pandemic.
In a press conference on Thursday early afternoon, health minister Alba Vergés announced that the restrictions in place since January 7 that were expiring on January 17, will now be in operation until at least January 24.
This means that residents in Catalonia will still not be allowed to leave their municipality of residence without having a justifiable reason, which includes work, study, returning home, going to health centers, care of dependent relatives, demonstrating and force majeure.
Only shops of up to 400 sqm are allowed to open on weekdays under these measures, but retail has to remain closed at the weekend except for those providing essential goods.
Shopping malls will continue to be closed, as will gyms.
The rules for restaurants and cultural venues remain the same as now.
This means that restaurants will continue only to be allowed to open from 7 am to 9.30 am and from 1 pm to 3:30 pm. In the evening, take away and delivery services are only permitted.
As for theatres, cinemas and concert halls, they can open at 50% capacity with a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, as long as there is sufficient ventilation and access is controlled, otherwise, the capacity remains at 500.
20% more ICU patients
Speaking at a press conference, Vergés stated that the goal of stopping the increase in transmissions has not yet been achieved.
"We cannot say the virus is not spreading as is happening elsewhere. The spread is not exponential, but the number of cases keeps on growing, which is why we are extending restrictions," she said.
Public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon, who spoke alongside Vergés, emphasized the importance of extending measures to keep ICU pressure down and to prevent overwhelming the health system.
"The number of ICU patients grew by 20% this week. We are far from having a balanced number of hospitalizations and discharges," he noted.
As of Thursday, 2,541 people are hospitalized, and there are 497 in ICUs – the highest figure since November 24.
"We know these numbers will grow in the coming days," Vergés said. The current ICU capacity in Catalonia is between 900 and 1,000, while before Covid-19 there were only 575 beds.
In the past week, 23,000 infections have been reported.
Election date up in the air
The date of the Catalan election, initially set for February 14, seems more and more uncertain after most parties voiced concerns about holding the vote due to the increase in Covid-19 cases, and a final decision on when they will take place will be announced on Friday.
On Thursday, the Health Department provided the Parliament's elections bureau with a report estimating the number of daily infections and ICU patients in a month's time according to two scenarios, situating peak pressure on hospitals between February 3 and 7.
The more optimistic of the two would be one with some 3,000 cases per day and 620 people requiring ICU care. Calculations were also made in the event there is a post-New Year's and Three Kings' Day effect, with 4,000 infections per day and 750 ICU patients.