Impact and measures as coronavirus spreads throughout Catalonia

Spike in cases totaling 101, with three deaths, as three Barcelona councilors and over a hundred health workers are confined and a nursery school is closed temporarily

Lab tests for coronavirus in Barcelona's Hospital Clínic, March 5, 2020 (by Hospital Clínic)
Lab tests for coronavirus in Barcelona's Hospital Clínic, March 5, 2020 (by Hospital Clínic) / ACN

Guifré Jordan & Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

March 9, 2020 06:25 PM

Coronavirus has reached Catalonia and its effects are starting to become noticeable.

The first confirmed case of covid-19 was announced on February 25, and since then, the number of new patients reported has been growing every day – on Sunday, there was a spike with 29 new cases, and 23 more cases were added on Monday, bringing the total figure to 101. A quarter of them are health workers. 

Made with Flourish

One person died last week and five others were in serious condition on Sunday, according to Catalan health department figures made public on Sunday evening. On Monday, two more people were reported dead: a 97-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman. 

Health workers confined

On March 4, when the number of diagnoses was at 24, authorities said that 410 people had been confined at home, meaning it would be reasonable to believe that current figures could be significantly higher.

Indeed, on Friday it was announced that over a hundred health workers have been told to self-quarantine, and on Monday the Catalan News Agency learnt that at Sabadell's Parc Taulí hospital alone, 47 workers were sent home after two employees tested positive.

That number rose again on Monday evening, with the health authorities confirming that there were more than 300 medical professionals who were in isolation.

Nursery school closed, Barcelona's deputy mayor sent home

On Monday, the diagnosis of an early childhood teacher prompted the temporary closure of a nursery in Barcelona's Gràcia neighborhood.

And also on Monday, the confirmation that a public servant at Barcelona's local council's economy department has the virus resulted in several more instances of self-quarantine, including that of the Catalan capital's deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, and councilors Jordi Martí and Montserrat Ballarín.

None of them are symptomatic and they will continue to work from home until Barcelona's public health agency assesses them.

Marathon, professional fairs postponed

Other measures taken in Catalonia include the postponement of the Barcelona marathon until October 25 and one of the city's largest professional fairs, Alimentaria, until September.

The Mobile World Congress was canceled in mid-February, before anyone in Catalonia was tested positive.

On Monday, the Catalan government recommended that the FC Barcelona-SSC Napoli football match, due to take place on March 18, be played behind closed doors, and the club ultimately confirmed it would do so on Tuesday. Around 5,000 Italian fans had already bought tickets to the game. 

Restaurant high season "at risk"

Barcelona's main restaurants' association, the Gremi de Restauració, expressed concern about their high season, which begins around Easter time.

Indeed, president Roger Pallarols said the high season is "at risk" as they have already seen a number of clients cancel their reservations over Easter.

"The spread of alarm is much higher than that of the pandemic itself," he added.  

The impact of the coronavirus in Catalonia is also starting to be felt in terms of employment. There was an increase in jobseekers this February for the first February since 2014, with the government attributing the phenomenon to covid-19 and the cancellation of the MWC.

Employment and exports

While trade unions, such as IAC, argue that the effects of the virus should not be felt by employees, some industrial plants have already been forced to halt their production as fears of temporary unemployment schemes grow.

Meanwhile, the outbreak is also affecting certain exports to China, such as pork, but some companies in Catalonia are also benefiting from the situation as manufacturers turn to European markets, Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce president explained last week.

Cultural sector takes a hit

Catalonia's cultural sector has also taken a hit as more and more holidaymakers ultimately decide against visiting many of the main monuments and museums. 

Sites including Gaudí's Sagrada Família or La Pedrera that are usually overflowing with people have experienced a decrease in foreign visitors, particularly those hailing from Japan, China, South Korea or Italy, with the Palau de la Música concert hall, MNAC museum, and Fundació Dalí confirming a similar trend. 

On the other hand, businesses such as cinemas or theaters that cater to local audiences have not, as of yet, noticed a significant change in consumption habits.