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Uncertainty as non-essential employees go back to work

1.7 million Spanish government masks begin to be distributed as road traffic increased amid criticism of end of 'total lockdown'


14 April 2020 11:45 AM


ACN | Barcelona

Up to a million employees providing non-essential services went back to work in Catalonia on Tuesday morning after the Spanish government lifted the ban on non-key workers going to their workplaces.

The return to work came in a climate of uncertainty, with the Catalan government flatly rejecting it on the grounds that it might "increase transmissions." Some epidemiologists were also skeptical, such as doctor Antoni Trilla, who said that the measure "obviously carries the risk of more transmissions" and that this would be seen in roughly a week.

"At the moment the number and percentage of people infected is low, but this means the possibility of another outbreak is very high," Catalan health minister Alba Vergés explained in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. 

In order to protect workers, the Spanish executive sent 1.7 million masks to Catalonia, which began to be distributed on public transport. On Tuesday, the first 100,000 of these masks were handed out to the public. 

Volunteers of the Red Cross and the Civil Protection agency gave the free masks to commuters at some hundred points in towns of more than 30,000 inhabitants.

The masks were only handed over once the passenger's ticket had been validated, in order to make sure that the commuters were the ones receiving them.

Users of public and private transport

In the morning rush hour, Barcelona's metro and Rodalies commuter train network did not see an increase in the number of users, with 81% and 91% fewer passengers, respectively, than on the Tuesday after Easter last year.

Yet, road traffic in Barcelona's metro area went up significantly compared to last Tuesday, with 62.6% more vehicles leaving the capital area and 61.1% more coming in. However, in comparison to a normal Tuesday, outbound road traffic has gone down by 52.8% and inbound traffic by 51.5%.


  • A volunteer of Red Cross distributing masks in Barcelona's main train station, Sants, on April 14, 2020 (by Albert Cadanet)

  • A volunteer of Red Cross distributing masks in Barcelona's main train station, Sants, on April 14, 2020 (by Albert Cadanet)