Decrease in Covid-19 cases comes to a halt as Easter holiday looms
Restrictions, including the county-level lockdown, have been eased over the past few weeks
The two-month-long downwards trend in Covid-19 cases has come to a halt in Catalonia, according to the health authorities.
Public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon said that one of the figures that concerns authorities most is the increase in the number of positive cases identified by antigen tests among people with symptoms on Monday and Tuesday compared to the same days last week.
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, he predicted that the transmission rate – the number of people each positive case is transmitting the virus to – will near 1 in the coming days.
This figure has been at 0.92 all of March but has surged to 0.97 over the past couple of days – over 1 concerns authorities.
As for outbreak risk, the lowest value since early October 2020 was 177 on Sunday, yet as of March 17, it stands at 185.
Given these figures, Argimon has called on the public to comply with all safety measures.
Recent easing of measures
"We are providing some breathing room needed from a social and economic point of view, but we have to balance it with health considerations."
Indeed, Catalan civil protection authorities have been relaxing third wave Covid-19 restrictions for some weeks.
For instance, the municipality-level lockdown turned into a county-level one on February 8, and from this Monday, this measure was also lifted, meaning Catalonia residents can travel anywhere within its borders.
Shopping malls reopened on March 1 – they had only been allowed to open for 24 days – coinciding with the Christmas season – from October 30.
Non-essential stores will be able to open on weekends for the first time since the week of January 7.
On-site food services in the evenings
Other restrictions were expected to be eased soon, such as the possibility for bars to serve food on-site in the evenings for the first time since December 21.
Indeed, government spokesperson Meritxell Budó said on Monday that bars and restaurants might be allowed to operate in the evenings in two weeks' time, and the curfew eased to 11 pm.
Yet, authorities will have to decide by March 28, when current measures expire, whether de-escalation should continue given the possible trend change.
As for Easter, the cabinet has ruled out setting a timeframe by which it will ease measures ahead of the holiday and will announce a possible tightening or relaxing of restrictions closer to key dates.
Spain has set a framework of regulations during the festivities, from March 26 to April 9, similar to those already in operation in Catalonia.