Official: Bars to be shut and social activities limited to avoid 'total lockdown'
Government announces toughest coronavirus measures since March, but courts could block their enforcement expected for Friday
The Catalan government announced on Wednesday the toughest package of health and mobility restrictions since the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last March, including the closure of bars and restaurants for two weeks, as well as a 30% capacity limit for stores, and 50% for sports facilities, cultural activities, and religious ceremonies.
"We must act today in order to avoid a total lockdown in the coming weeks," said Pere Aragonès, the vice president of the Catalan government, currently acting as interim president.
Catalan authorities are also ordering the suspension of fairs and conventions, non-professional sports competitions, an 8 pm curfew for parks and public gardens, and the closure of bingo halls and business activities involving physical contact, except for hair salons.
"We must act today in order to avoid a total lockdown in the coming weeks"
Pere Aragonès · Catalan vice president
Face masks will remain compulsory in public, social gatherings will still be limited to 6 people, and universities and companies are being urged to implement remote work.
"Social interactions must be reduced. This is the right time to do this sacrifice", said Aragonès.
"If we manage to flatten the curb, we will guarantee that the Christmas campaign for tourism, shops, and restaurants can be maintained," said Meritxell Budó, the government spokesperson.
The new restrictions will unify and replace all other Covid-19 measures already in place, and the government hopes they will come into effect on Friday, pending judicial approval.
As seen in the Madrid region, where the Spanish government resorted to imposing a state of alarm to enforce lockdown measures following a court ban, the Catalan High Court could have the final say on the legality of the new restrictions.
While bars and restaurants will have to shut their indoors and outdoors spaces, food delivery and takeaway will be authorized.
The Barcelona association of bars and restaurants warned that "Barcelona will sink" following the closure order, which will "destroy the engine" of Catalonia's economy. They are prepared to legally challenge the measure in court once it's approved.
Cultural activities will be allowed to continue, but at 50% capacity, with pre-booked seats, and ensuring contact tracing.
Health minister Alba Vergés said that in a week there has been a 21% increase in the number of people at ICUs, while the total number of hospitalized patients has surpassed 1,000.
"We're not in March. Now, the rise in cases is sustained. In March it was an explosion. We're not at that point," said Vergés.