Catalonia could extend Lleida lockdown as Covid-19 cases expected to continue rising
Government "can't rule anything out" after cases double in seven days
The Catalan government expects Covid-19 cases in the western region of Lleida to continue rising over the coming days until the effects of the new lockdown measures, announced on Saturday, are seen.
Two weeks after Spain lifted the state of alarm and exited a 3-month lockdown, a spike in infections led Catalan authorities to put the town of Lleida and the Segrià county it is in under lockdown again, limiting the freedom of movement and preventing people from entering or leaving the area.
Cases double in one week
Figures released by the Catalan health department on Monday revealed that the amount of new coronavirus cases discovered in the county of Segrià has doubled in one week, going from 266 in the week beginning June 22 up to 524 in the last seven days.
There has been a total of 2,541 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with five new cases reported on Sunday and 65 on Saturday.
The last fortnight has seen ten new cases recorded in care homes, all but one of which were confirmed on July 4. In total, 341 cases in care homes have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
The last confirmed or suspected coronavirus death in Segrià was recorded on June 22, bringing the total in the county to 136, of which 54 were in care homes.
Health minister Alba Vergés has said that the Catalan government "can’t rule anything out" if the current restrictions are not enough to keep the outbreak under control.
The newly applied lockdown measures will affect over 200,000 people. Currently, businesses can continue to operate, and people are allowed to leave their homes. However, nobody is allowed to enter or leave the Segrià county, unless for essential reasons or force majeure.
Number of clusters rises to 14
The number of specific coronavirus clusters in Segrià has also doubled in the past week, rising from seven to fourteen. A majority of the outbreaks, ten in total, are in fruit companies, with two in care homes, one in a hostel for vulnerable people and another in a building in Lleida's Old Town.
The health department continues to remind people of the importance of hygiene measures, such as wearing face masks, maintaining safety distances and regularly washing hands.
The manager of the Lleida health region, Divina Farreny, expects the increases in cases will to continue for ten or fifteen days, saying trends "don't change overnight." If there is no fall in new cases in two weeks, however, health authorities are not ruling out more extreme measures such as home confinement.
Infection rate "clearly high"
The head of epidemiology at Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic, Antoni Trilla, said that Lleida’s infection rate of 149 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is "clearly high, far above what we expected."
"If cases go down to 30, 40 or 50, that will be good news. If the current figures remain, the lockdown will have to be extended."
A member of the scientific committee appointed by Spain to help manage the pandemic, Trilla is hopeful that the Lleida outbreak can still be "brought under control," but more strict measures such as home confinement "could be an alternative" should cases continue to rise.
Lleida hospital Covid-19 ward full
The floor in Lleida's Arnau de Vilanova hospital that is being used for Covid-19 patients is full, according to doctor José Luis Morales-Rull, who in an interview on Saturday morning with Catalunya Ràdio explained that another hospital space will have to be set up to treat coronavirus patients.
According to Morales-Rull, the field hospital that was set up yesterday is meant to be used as a waiting room for people that will be tested for the virus and to avoid having them get close to patients that are at the hospital for other reasons.