No 'noteworthy' easing of Covid restrictions expected this week

Coronavirus infection rates continue to fall but numbers in hospital and ICU still concern authorities 

The health secretary general, Marc Ramentol, on October 7, 2020 (by Maria Belmez)
The health secretary general, Marc Ramentol, on October 7, 2020 (by Maria Belmez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 16, 2021 06:57 PM

Health officials have warned that there will not be a "noteworthy" easing of the current Covid-19 restrictions in Catalonia, which are due to expire by the end of the week.

An announcement on the extension of measures – or any changes – is expected by Thursday, but despite being pleased with the epidemiological data, the Secretary General of the Health Department, Marc Ramentol, told reporters on Monday the situation in hospitals was still an "area of risk," with more pressure on resources than during the pandemic's second wave.

The health minister Alba Vergés echoed those sentiments and said that the review of measures would take place "with restraint." With courts processing an appeal to extend restaurant opening hours, Vergés warned that judges "cannot act as epidemiologists." 

On a positive note, Ramentol remarked that, with the number of cases per day continuing to fall, the third wave's peak of infections "is beginning to be quite far behind us."

The 14-day incidence rate dropped below 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the first time over the weekend. It now stands at 345, according to the latest update.

Number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in last 14 days

Yet, Ramentol warned that this was not reflected by the situation in health centers, with 632 patients in intensive care (up to 639 in latest update). This is higher than the peak of the second wave, when there were 594 patients.

Noting that the decline in the number of patients admitted to hospital is "very slow" and "even fluctuating" the health chief urged the public not to "lower the guard."

Ramentol also described Sunday's election as "successful from a democratic point of view despite the clearly adverse conditions," while the Covid-19 coordinator Jacobo Mendioroz said it was a "model" to follow in terms of making such activities "much safer."

Vaccines for teachers

Meanwhile, teachers and educational staff up to the age of 55 will begin receiving the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, according to the Department of Health.

From Wednesday they will be able to sign up online for an appointment to be given the AstraZeneca vaccine in one of the 37 vaccination centers.

This is the latest group to be offered the vaccine, in addition to those already receiving it, such as pharmacists, prison officials, and emergency services.

Vaccination of people over the age of 80 who have not already received it (ie those who do not live in care homes or are not classed as heavily dependent) will also begin at the end of the week.

Those over 80 will be given either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna jabs – the Spanish public health committee has set the maximum age for receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine at 55.

As of February 15, 2021, 248,531 residents have been given the first dose of the vaccine3.22% of the total population. Out of those, 171,374 have also been administered the second dose (2.22% of the total population).

Vaccine rollout