Bars, culture, and sport to partially reopen when first measures are lifted next Monday

The de-escalation of the second wave Covid-19 restrictions will be done gradually

A group of people sitting at a table at a bar in Girona, October 2020 (by Gemma Tubert)
A group of people sitting at a table at a bar in Girona, October 2020 (by Gemma Tubert) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 17, 2020 12:36 PM

The Catalan government will begin de-escalating current measures in place to suppress the Covid-19 virus from next Monday, November 23. 

Bars and restaurants will be able to reopen at 30% capacity, both inside the establishments and on outdoor terraces.

Cultural activities can resume with 50% capacity. This will apply to cinemas, theatres, and concert halls, with a total maximum capacity of 600 allowed. Outdoor sport will be once again permitted, also with 50% of its normal capacity.

Health authorities want to lift the measures gradually, believing that opening up too quickly can have adverse long-term effects. As such, the de-escalation process will be taken in a number of steps. 

The re-opening will be done by different sector and the moves will last for 15 days before being re-evaluated. 

In the second stage, the weekend confinement will move from municipal to county, meaning people will be allowed to leave their towns but not leave the borders of the county. 

Gyms will also be allowed to reopen at 50%, while the capacity limits in bars and restaurants will rise to 50%, while culture will be able to accommodate 70%.

Health objectives

At a press conference on Monday, health officials advocated that restrictions be gradually lifted from Monday onwards due to the "good trend" of Covid-19 data seen in Catalonia in recent days, although not all objectives have been achieved. 

Specifically, ICU occupation remains high. Health minister Alba Vergés pointed out that, although Catalonia overcame the peak of new infections of the second wave a few days ago, this has not yet been felt in medical centres. 

Following a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations in October, a new raft of restrictions were introduced in Catalonia, including a curfew, a partial lockdown of regional and municipal borders, and the closure of bars and restaurants. The measures were the strictest seen since the first wave in the spring.

The head of the health department was pleased with the fact that the R number has remained below 1 for a sustained period, meaning infection numbers will continue to fall. 

However, the officials are still concerned about the number of new infections per day, which they want to see fall below 1,000, and the number of patients in intensive care.

"Unsustainable" situation

Businesses representatives and members of the political opposition have criticized the enforced closure of the hospitality sector. 

The restaurant sector met on Tuesday to demand the reopening of the establishments on November 20, three days earlier, and proposed a three-phase de-escalation.

With the support of the General Council of Chambers of Catalonia, the sector warns that debts, exacerbated by the shutting of businesses, "drown" families.

"The Catalan government has not shown the necessary sensitivity to understand the despair of employers and workers in the sector," criticized the president of the Federation of Hospitality of Lleida, Josep Castellarnau, in reading a manifesto agreed with the sector.

The representatives also demanded financial aid to compensate for losses and the waiving of taxes, both state and municipal. "The situation of Catalonia’s hospitality sector, totally shut for 40 days, is unsustainable," Castellarnau affirmed.

Carlos Carrizosa, leader of the Ciudadanos party, was also very critical of the government's moves, calling the de-escalation plan "insufficient." 

Carrizosa said the government don't know how to look after or listen to the sectors most affected by the crisis and measures applied, and which are suffering the most.

He called instead for copying the example of the Madrid region, where bars and restaurants are open, and the curfew is midnight.