Spain denies enhancement of lockdown in Igualada covid-19 cluster
Catalan government had decreed total confinement in area with higher death rate than Lombardy
The Spanish government has denied the enhancement of the confinement decreed by the Catalan executive on Wednesday evening in Igualada and three neighboring towns, an area suffering from the biggest covid-19 cluster in Catalonia.
On Thursday morning, the cabinet in Madrid ruled it out, arguing that Spain has already taken the "most drastic measures in Europe and the strictest worldwide in order to beat coronavirus."
Sources of the Pedro Sánchez government also asked Catalonia and the rest of administrations for "unity of action."
Spain has been under a state of alarm since March 14, resulting in the Socialist cabinet taking over Catalonia's self-government when it comes to the key services dealing with the pandemic.
Therefore, the decree passed by the Catalan ministers on Wednesday evening had to be given the go-ahead by Madrid before coming into force.
The Catalan interior minister, Miquel Buch, responded shortly afterwards saying the denial is "not correct at all," adding that Catalonia will "look for other solutions" if Spain continues to reject their appeal.
Despite not supporting the Catalan government's moves to enhance the confinement measures, it was revealed on Thursday evening that the Spanish health ministry were studying the effects of the first phase of lockdown.
'Phase 2' of confinement
Buch announced the plans for enhancing the lockdown measures to 'phase 2' of the confinement at a press conference on Wednesday evening. The decree intended that only essential services be carried out with all others halted for 15 days.
"Everyone, and I mean everyone, must stay home," said Buch, adding: "We are not doing this because we want to, but because we have to."
Buch highlighted the seriousness of the situation by comparing Igualada's coronavirus fatality rate of 63.1 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants to Catalonia's rate of 6.9 deaths, Spain's 7.4 deaths, Madrid's 27.9 deaths, and the Italian region of Lombardy's 41.6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
Catalan health minister Alba Vergés, a resident of Igualada, also spoke about the measures: "They are very drastic but necessary."
Vergés said that transmission rate reduction can only occur if everyone stays home.
The health minister confirmed there were 306 positive cases in the area, of which 140 are health professionals. 41 people have died.
The towns of Igualada, Vilanova del Camí, Santa Margarida de Montbui and Òdena have been in quarantine since March 13.
According to 2019 figures from the Catalan Statistics Institute, the area in lockdown, shown in the map above, has a total population of 66,048.
An investigation into that the outbreak that led to the four towns being completely sealed off by police showed it could be traced back to a lunch held on February 28 that was attended by 80 people, many of whom work in Igualada Hospital.
Testing for residents
Meanwhile, Igualada mayor Marc Castells has asked that all residents of the area be tested, whether they have symptoms or not.
"We calmly but with determination demand that the entire population be tested," Castell stated on Thursday.