Catalan authorities propose further partial lockdown de-escalation
Plan for Garraf, Baix Montseny, and Alt Penedès to move to Phase 1 and Barcelona to 'advanced Phase 0' needs approval from Spain
The Catalan government has proposed that the areas of Garraf, Baix Montseny, and Alt Penedès move to Phase 1 of the coronavirus lockdown de-escalation plan.
The proposal sees the health regions that Catalonia is currently using to move forward with lockdown de-escalation divided even further, based on smaller areas. Garraf and Alt Penedès form part of the health region Barcelona metropolitan south, while Baix Montseny is in Barcelona metropolitan north.
However, despite the Catalan authorities giving the green light to the three areas, the ultimate decision rests with the Spanish ministry of health.
Barcelona metropolitan area
While Catalan authorities don't believe the three health regions of Barcelona city, metropolitan area north and metropolitan area south are ready to move onto Phase 1, they are proposing some loosening of restrictions.
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon with representatives from the Catalan government and Barcelona city council, government spokesperson Meritxell Budó described the plans, subject to approval from Spain, as a kind of "Phase 0 and a half."
The proposals for the three health regions in and around Barcelona include going to shops and businesses without first making an appointment, and opening places of worship to one third of capacity.
Catalan health minister Alba Vergés said there were four important factors when looking at easing restrictions: epidemiological evolution, ICU levels in hospitals, focused control of clusters, and detection capability.
Vergés said infection levels in general were continuing to fall. Within the last week, for every 100,000 inhabitants, the city of Barcelona had 21 new Covid-19 cases, the metropolitan area north had 11, and the metropolitan area south had 14.
More proposed measures for the Greater Barcelona area in 'Phase 0.5' include the gradual opening of scientific centers, libraries and cultural centers with limits on activity and capacity. The health minister is also proposing reopening the High Performance Center in Sant Cugat.
Some of the Phase 1 measures deemed too risky for the Catalan capital are the opening of gyms, the opening of bar and restaurant terraces, and socialising in groups of up to 10 people. Traveling to other towns within the Barcelona metropolitan area would not be allowed during 'Phase 0.5'.
Catalonia is also asking the Spanish government to make the wearing of face masks obligatory in public spaces, not only on public transport as is currently the case.
Effort has paid off
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau also spoke at the press conference, asking for patience and emphasizing the importance of coordination between administrations. The data shows that "everyone's effort has paid off," she said.
Colau pointed out that Barcelona is one of the densest areas in Europe, denser than Madrid, and they have to ensure that the health system is able to cope with any rise in Covid-19 cases.
The Barcelona mayor acknowledged how important terraces are to the city, both economically and socially, and said she hoped they would be able to reopen by May 25th. She added that she would like to see family visits at home permitted by the same date.
Authorities are also aiming to relax some of the restrictions around attending funerals with Colau saying that people "have the right" to say goodbye to loved ones.
The mayor went on to warn that social services are at risk of collapse and more help is needed. "We have avoided the collapse of hospitals but now we must avoid the collapse of social services".