The curve has flattened in Asturias after the worst month of the entire pandemic. In November, 557 people died in the principality from the coronavirus and 11,156 infections were registered. With the decrease in incidence, small businesses were reopened on November 25, but the rest of the easing measures proposed by the regional government will have to wait. Health authorities are concerned that the “abrupt” removal of the restrictions will trigger a third wave of COVID-19 “too soon”. However, there are those who do not seem willing to such caution.
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“The sector has to open in December”, defended this Monday José Luis Álvarez Almeida, president of OTEA, the largest hospitality and tourism association in the Principality of Asturias, after the meeting with the regional Executive. “It will be necessary to make adjustments and apply the necessary measures, but this sector cannot afford to spend another month closed,” the businessman declared.
Asturias hospitality is on the warpath. After a black month for the health system, the demonstrations are taking place throughout the region and are radicalized as the reopening is delayed. “The aid is insufficient”, says David Sampedro, president of the Association of Hospitality with Conscience. “The situation is already unsustainable.”
On November 18, the Government of the Principality extended until December 3 the closure of the hotel trade, commerce, entertainment and cultural activities, measures adopted on November 4, when the health authorities assumed that the measures adopted until then they hadn’t worked. “They did not work,” says Rafael Cofiño, director of Public Health of the Principality. However, it highlights that in the last two weeks the contagion curve has been flattened.
Threats of radicalization
The hoteliers warn of the radicalization of the protests if the closure is maintained and aid does not arrive. In everyone’s mind a key date: the bridge of the Constitution. The leadership of the Otea bosses met on Monday with the councilors of Health, Pablo Fernández, and of Tourism, Berta Piñán, who were accompanied by the general director of Public Health, Rafael Cofiño, and the deputy minister of Tourism, Graciela Blanco.
“It is essential that in a situation that is going to last for many months, in the best of scenarios, we manage to agree on a series of conditions, restrictive measures, which are the ones that can do the least damage to the hospitality industry,” he explained after the meeting with the employer the Minister of Health, Pablo Fernández Muñiz. “They would have to be reasonable from a public health point of view,” claims the counselor.
“We are seeing that all cities are breathing and yet our establishments are still closed,” complains Álvarez Almeida. The meeting with the regional government, he acknowledges, was “tense” at certain times. Above all, when the representatives of the Executive indicated that at least two weeks from now, no changes in the current situation could be assessed. “We understand the health emergency and we must do what is necessary to contain it, but our businesses can no longer endure this situation,” justifies Álvarez Almeida.
“Our patience is running out, if measures are not taken we are going to toughen the mobilizations,” warns David Sampedro, self-employed worker and president of the Hostelería Con Conciencia association. The protests of the sector spread throughout Asturias and professionals threaten to radicalize them. In some parts of the mining basin, such as La Felguera, protesters have locked themselves in churches.
“We are not doctors or epidemiologists. We will open when the experts determine it,” admits Sampedro, but points out the need for the sector to receive some kind of consideration from the regional government, such as the exemption of fees and aid for the payment of rents of the premises, which right now represents the biggest problem for small hoteliers. On the other hand, from Otea they go further, and emphasize that the reopening in December is vital for their associates. Although the situation is complicated for the entire sector, it is divided both in the demonstrations and in the demands to the Principality.
“We are not in a position to open the hotel industry yet”, explained today the counselor Pablo Fernández Muñiz, after the second meeting with the representatives of the Otea employers. The current decree to close all non-essential activities, which has already been extended once, ends tomorrow, December 3, and the counselor has already confirmed that it will be extended for another two weeks. Tomorrow it will be published in the Official Gazette of the Principality of Asturias, although there will be exceptions.
“If we see that the trend is not bad, we are going to make an exception with the hotel business,” said the president after this second meeting. “A revaluation will be carried out next week to assess whether we are in a position to open the hotel business,” added the counselor and emphasizes that this would not be a “total opening” since there would continue to be restrictive measures, although it would be considered to open terraces and some interior spaces of the premises.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed today 236 new cases of COVID-19 that were diagnosed yesterday, a day in which there were 69 admissions of patients with coronavirus, of which 60 were in the ward and 9 in the ICU. In addition, 77 discharges were registered. The positivity rate stands at 5.18%, according to the Ministry of Health.
Although the epidemiological situation has improved, Asturias continues at alert level 4 and for Health the reality continues to be critical. “We are going to have the virus for several months, so the measures will have to go slowly globally”, explains Rafael Cofiño, director of Public Health of Asturias.