New Year celebrations and flights canceled as Catalonia continues to deal with coronavirus threat

Organizers of the Mobile World Congress assure the trade fair will go ahead, while manufacturers struggle to meet demand for face masks

A train passenger wears a face mask in Hong Kong (by REUTERS / Tyrone Siu)
A train passenger wears a face mask in Hong Kong (by REUTERS / Tyrone Siu) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 30, 2020 02:50 PM

The World Health Organization are preparing to meet in order to decide whether or not to declare the outbreak of the coronavirus a global emergency

Regardless, citizens, companies, and organizations are taking their own measures to stave off the threat of the deadly virus that has so far claimed over 170 lives in China, and has already spread to Europe. 

Despite this, health authorities say there is currently no risk of the coronavirus in Spain at the moment, and that the focus should be on the precautionary measures.

Chinese New Year celebrations canceled

The celebration of the Chinese New Year in Barcelona has been cancelled as a show of solidarity with the coronavirus crisis in Asia. The organizing entities made the decision in a meeting that took place on Wednesday morning, in which representatives of the Barcelona City Council also took part. 

The Chinese community in Barcelona is made up of about 20,000 people, and the event, which was to celebrate the arrival of the year 4718 in the Chinese calendar, was scheduled for February 1 in the area of Arc de Triomf.

According to the Barcelona Institute of Culture, the arrival of the Chinese New Year, which this year corresponds to the year of the rat, is an ephemeris celebrated all over the world.

More than a thousand volunteers, cultural entities and organizations such as the Casa Asia or the Confucius Institute were to take part in the Barcelona festival. This year's celebrations included a parade, a cultural and gastronomic fair, and several shows.

Iberia suspends flights

The airliner Iberia has announced it is temporarily suspending all flights to and from Shanghai for the health alert related to the coronavirus. 

The suspension will take effect from this Friday, when the next flight was scheduled, and will last for the whole month of February, with the possibility that the period may be extended if necessary. 

Affected users can choose between a refund or a change of dates. Iberia is contacting other airlines to find alternatives for people who need to return to their place of origin.

So far the only affected route is Madrid-Shanghai. 

Mobile World Congress to go ahead as planned

Organizers of the Mobile World Congress, the annual trade fair for the mobile and technology industry, assure that the event will go ahead in Barcelona’s Fira Gran Vía venue. MWC 2020 is scheduled to take place between February 24-27, and is expected to welcome 110,000 visitors from over 200 different countries and territories. 

The congress, visited by thousands of Chinese citizens every year, also said in a statement to Reuters that it was aware of the potential impact of the virus and would follow recommendations made by the World Health Organization and authorities, as well as providing medical support at the fair. 

The secretary of public health, Joan Guix, said on Monday that the odds of the new coronavirus arriving in Catalonia are "low" but admitted the chances do "exist," and just this week the health ministry ruled out that a 33-year-old patient from Wuhan had the contagious disease after a he was admitted to hospital for the relevant symptoms.

When asked about the Mobile World Congress, Guix stated that they are "worried and busy" but did not see a "significant risk."

Mask sales triple

Pharmacies have nearly tripled their sales of facial masks in January compared to previous months, as the coronavirus continues to worry the population. 

Many establishments have sold out of a product that sources say is "very seasonal" for this time of year anyway, and manufacturers did not predict such a rise in demand which "has multiplied twentyfold."

Fedefarma is a pharmaceutical cooperative that works in Catalonia and Valencia, and sources from the organization say many orders from pharmacies that have been placed have not been able to be fulfilled. The cooperative hopes that the problem of lack of stock will be fixed between the next couple of weeks.

Quarantine for returning Spaniards

Around 20 Spaniards returning to the country from Wuhan will go into quarantine for around two weeks in a Madrid hospital upon their return, the Spanish health ministry has confirmed. 

The department also said that a European-wide effort to repatriate citizens from the Chinese city where the disease started is underway "to guarantee the safety of people and to provide guarantees to China."

It is not yet known whether or not there are any Catalans included in the list of 40 who will be quarantined in Madrid. 

Despite the precautions taken, the health department has also confirmed that none of the citizens are showing symptoms of the virus.