Barcelona may get some easing of its coronavirus lockdown next week after all. Although the Catalan government is proposing that the city and its entire metropolitan area remain in Phase 0 of the Spanish plan for lifting lockdown, it wants some of the measures to be made more flexible. An adjustment to the four-phase plan that the Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, has described as "Phase 0 advanced" or "Phase 0.5". The proposal, which will be sent to the ministry in Madrid for approval, would allow retail stores to open without prior appointment, as well as the resumption of activities for religious centres, museums and libraries, limited to one third of their normal capacity.
It would also make attendance at wakes more straightforward and allow the resumption of professional sport. However, the opening of bar and restaurant terraces or gymnasiums will still not be allowed. And other key aspects of Phase 1 - meetings of up to 10 people at home, and mobility outside one's municipality of residence - will not be permitted yet either, under this plan.
According to Vergés, the specific characteristics of Barcelona and the metropolitan "demographic and social" area mean that the easing of measures must be even more "gradual" and "specific". She commented again on the high population density of this region, which represents only 9% of the area of Catalonia, but has 65% of the population. For this reason, she backed the need for a differentiated "transition plan" for the metropolitan area's three health regions: Barcelona city; the northern metropolitan region stretching to Arenys de Mar and Sant Celoni; and the southern metropolitan region going as far as Vilafranca and Cunit.
Terraces: a possible target date
Vergés was speaking in the Catalan government's daily press conference this Thursday, in which Barcelona mayor Ada Colau also took part. Colau affirmed her hope that after one further week the Catalan capital and the rest of the metropolitan area will be to fully enter Phase 1 and thus, among other innovations, partially reopen bar terraces on May 25th.
Colau said that the city council is working to restart "one of the most important economic activities in the city", but warned that it must be done with "maximum safety" and that a technical committee is still studying how this will be possible "without taking up public space." Nevertheless she was optimistic that this would be ready next week.
PROCICAT proposes compulsory masks
As well, Catalan government spokesperson Meritxell Budó announced that the PROCICAT civil protection committee has given the go-ahead to making face masks compulsory in public places. Budó said that this proposal would be sent to the Spanish health ministry and that the committee was confident the measure would be accepted.
Also speaking on this issue, health minister Vergés clarified that the best safety measure for the coronavirus is "the distance between people", but she added that "any additional protection" must be considered. In this regard, she said that there is still "a great lack of knowledge" and there is "no absolutely correct path" on how the lockdown deescalation should best proceed, nor on exactly how the virus will evolve, and for that reason she advocated measures based on "prudence."
Garraf, Alt Penedès and Baix Montseny, to Phase 1
Finally, the Catalan executive also said it would request a further splitting-off of health management areas, to allow three zones which form part of Barcelona metropolitan region to go directly to Phase 1. These are the Garraf and the Alt Penedès, south of Barcelona city, and the Baix Montseny, to the north, which will be added to the regions of Girona, Lleida and Central Catalonia, which the Catalan government had already proposed on Wednesday as candidates to jump to Phase 1 next Monday, thus joining the other three regions of Catalonia (Alt Pirineu-Aran, Terres de l'Ebre and Camp de Tarragona) that entered Phase 1 of the four-phase deconfinement plan on Monday 11th.
To find out which Catalan health region a municipality belongs to, and which phase of the process it is in, the Catalan health service website provides this page.