Mayor calls for Barcelona metropolitan area merger decision
Catalonia will propose to Spain that Greater Barcelona's three health regions merge from June 1 to allow travel in and out of the city
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has called on the Catalan government to clarify, by next Monday "at the latest", the issue of a potential merger of the Barcelona metropolitan area during the de-escalation period.
In a press conference on Monday morning Colau explained that the council has made a request to the Department of Health to unify the three areas taking into account the social, economic and mobility reality, with the ministry responding by asking for a few days to talk to all councils in the area.
As things stand, for the purposes of lockdown de-escalation, the area is divided into three regions: metropolitan area north, metropolitan area south, and Barcelona city, with travel between them only allowed for work or health reasons.
This means that Barcelona residents cannot leave the city, and those resident outside the city boundaries, including areas such as Sant Adrià de Besòs and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, cannot enter.
Colau said that the three areas are very interconnected and that is why the merger has been requested, adding that most councils have spoken out in favor of unifying the region.
Health minister Alba Vergés believes that the encouraging coronavirus data is raising the possibility of a merger.
"We have very good indicators in all three regions and this makes us think that we can move forward in this direction," she said in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio on Monday morning.
Vergés went on to explain that the consequences of unifying the three health regions have already been studied with Barcelona City Council. Now they are evaluating with the other mayors in the metropolitan area whether an increase in journeys between the three areas would significantly increase the risk of infection.
Garraf and Alt Penedès
It remains unclear how the merger would affect Garraf and Alt Penedès, two areas that form part of the metropolitan area south, but which advanced to Phase 1 one week earlier than the rest of the region.
If the Catalan health department does want to go ahead and merge the greater Barcelona area into one region for de-escalation, they will have to forward the proposal to the Spanish government for final approval.
Catalan government put forward proposals
Colau's wish for a quick decision was granted as on Monday evening the Catalan health department revealed that they will ask the Spanish health authorities to merge Barcelona, the metropolitan area north and metropolitan area south from next Monday, June 1, saying the epidemiological evolution was similar in the three regions.
Catalonia will also request that the health regions of Central Catalonia and Girona, as well as Garraf and Alt Penedès in the metropolitan area, move to Phase 2 on the same date.
On the other hand, the Catalan executive believes that the Lleida health region does not yet meet the necessary conditions to further loosen its lockdown measures.
Health minister Vergés has not ruled out requesting that Lleida advance to Phase 2 next Monday, but explained that it was preferable to "wait a couple of days" to see how the current trend, which shows an increase in cases of Covid-19, evolves.