‘Easing the restrictions now is risky,’ says top researcher Macip

County-level lockdown and ban on non-essential shops on weekends to be lifted from March 15

Image of the Catalan researcher Salvador Macip in the lab (by Yolanda Porter/macip.org)
Image of the Catalan researcher Salvador Macip in the lab (by Yolanda Porter/macip.org) / Cristina Tomàs White

Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

March 13, 2021 12:19 PM

New restrictions are coming into force on Monday, March 15, including the lifting of the county-level lockdown, meaning that all Catalan residents will be able to travel across the whole country - as long as it is within the same bubble. 

Another major change from next week will be the fact that non-essential shops will be allowed to open on weekends. 

These and other measures, together with the beginning of spring, might significantly increase the activity in the streets, although authorities call for caution. On the same page is Catalan geneticist and medical researcher at Leicester University, Salvador Macip, who also teaches at Catalonia's Open University (UOC). 

In an interview with Catalan News, he comments on the measures, the current situation and the vaccine rollout.

Have a listen to our podcast for an in-depth analysis of the Covid-19 situation and to listen to the interview with Macip: 

This is an extract of the interview: 

How do the restrictions in Catalonia compare to the UK?

The strategy that the UK is following right now, which is basically not removing all restrictions until all adults are fully vaccinated, is a reasonable course of action. By then, you could lift restrictions and not have to put them in place ever again. In Catalonia, that's not the case because the rate of vaccination is low. If we had to wait for the full vaccination of the adult population we would be going to the end of summer, perhaps autumn. This is too long for a country that needs to recover its economy and save the summer. But this is dangerous. It comes with a price tag, the risk of increasing cases again, having another wave. Easing the restrictions now is risky, it is understandable that it needs to be done, but I would be very cautious.

How do you explain the differences in vaccination rates?

There were a few logistical problems in the beginning, and some countries dealt with them better than others. The UK for instance was quite ready from day one. Spain, Catalonia and other countries in Europe had a rocky start and it took a few weeks until they reached cruise speed. But even so at this point, the rate of vaccination is much slower than we anticipated. It is a problem difficult to solve. Now the bottom line seems to be the amount of vaccines that reach each country and this is difficult to increase at the moment.

Should Spain extend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine?

In Spain they are still not using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 55 which is a clear mistake in the light of the data showing that it works perfectly on this population, and it reduces the rate of vaccination of the frail population, which is older people and people with previous pathologies, who can experience worse forms of Covid or even die of the disease.