After the peak of hospital admissions of the third wave, the first opening measures. Catalonia has approved this Thursday to extend the hours of bars and restaurants –one more hour in the morning and one hour at noon– and change the perimeter confinement of all municipalities for a regional one. It will also allow bookstores to open on weekends – unlike the rest of the shops – and greater attendance at first-year university students. The measures will be in force from Monday 8 to 22.
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At the beginning of the week, those responsible for the Health Department assured that the current healthcare pressure would force them to maintain the bulk of the restrictions. There are currently 724 COVID-19 patients admitted to the Catalan ICUs, a figure that has not been seen since the spring, although it is beginning to decline. In this way, on Wednesday the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, already opened the door to “small openings”.
The Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol, has argued that “most of the measures will remain in force”, but has added that the balance sought by the Government to alleviate economic damage has led them to adopt what he has described as ” timid corrections “in restrictions. “We have to be able to give a little air”, has summarized.
Unlike the second wave, on this occasion the Generalitat has ruled out presenting a detailed de-escalation plan with sections and indicators to take into account. The reason, as they have argued, is that the scenario still does not allow it. “We cannot consider an opening plan as we did in November,” he argued. And he added that at the moment the hospital pressure is greater and there is also the threat of new variants of the virus.
Measures for libraries and universities
As of Monday, bars and restaurants will be open from 7:30 to 10:30 for breakfast and from 1:00 to 4:30 for lunch. Regarding confinement, citizens will be able to circulate freely throughout the region in which they reside, as requested by many mayors, especially in the interior of Catalonia. For now, the health authorities have ruled out meeting the request of the Barcelona City Council, which requested a perimeter confinement of the entire metropolitan area, and also in its case it will be regional.
Among the other novelties, the opening of the bookstores on weekends stands out. Until now they had to remain closed like the rest of the shops, but from the Generalitat they will now be considered “cultural establishments”. Likewise, Ramentol has also ensured that universities, which now maintain virtual teaching, will be allowed to provide blended classes to first-year undergraduate students.
The decision to begin relaxing the measures contrasts with the forecasts of the Government and most of the political parties when they tried to postpone the February 14 elections, although they will finally be held by order of the Justice. Health forecasts for that date were of much greater pressure in the ICUs, with a figure that they believed would reach up to 900 admitted and that, according to the current trend, it seems that it will not happen.