Catalonia will upgrade polling staff’s protective equipment and offer Covid tests

Government rules out vaccinating election workers ahead of the February 14 election

A health worker in full protective equipment deposits a sample collected by an antigen test in Lleida (by Salvador Miret)
A health worker in full protective equipment deposits a sample collected by an antigen test in Lleida (by Salvador Miret) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 28, 2021 05:41 PM

With a rising number of Catalan citizens requesting medical certificates to avoid serving as election staff on February 14, health authorities have pledged to upgrade their protective equipment, provide better masks, and offer antigen tests to lessen the risk of coronavirus contagion.

Constrained by a court’s provisional veto on an election delay, the Catalan government has committed to making polling stations "one of the safest public spaces" to ensure that "the right to vote and the right to health are guaranteed." 

Still, Catalan officials acknowledge that "it’s not a good moment" to hold an election with 5.5 million eligible voters, amid rising hospitalizations and ICUs packed with Covid-19 patients.

The Catalan government has pledged 60,000 antigen tests for polling workers and their most likely substitutes, and will also provide them with FFP2 full protective filter masks.

Health authorities have raised concerns over the rise of patients presenting the fast-spreading variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom. He expects the British strain to account for the majority of new cases by mid-March.

With Catalonia trapped in the European Union’s standstill with vaccine providers, health officials ruled out inoculating polling staff ahead of election day, as there are neither enough doses for them nor do they have the time to wait 21 days to receive a second shot to complete the immunization treatment.

Public health general secretary Marc Ramentol explained in a press conference today that Catalonia will next week receive 5,000 fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine than initially expected. The department is expected to run out of vaccines this week, putting thousands of people waiting for their second doses on hold.

On election day, from 7 to 9 pm, polling stations will be open to coronavirus patients and voters in quarantine. Polling workers will all receive personal protective equipment (PPE), like the ones used by medical professionals with high risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.

Campaigns and mobility restrictions

Forced by a court to run in the election despite health concerns, political parties have pledged to reduce in-person rallies and comply with coronavirus restrictions even though people are allowed to attend political rallies outside of their towns or cities of residence.

"Parties are committed to respecting mobility restrictions for their campaign events," said Catalan foreign minister Bernat Solé on Thursday.