Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, has warned that Catalonia is still not at the point where authorities can start talking about reducing the lockdown measures, because it is also not clear that the peak of the epidemic has been reached. The minister affirmed that the loosening of the confinement of the Catalan population will be possible when there is a sustained reduction of cases for 14 days. "That is, after the peak of new cases, which is still not definite, because we could still find that we are on a ridge [in terms of the graph], rather than at the strictly highest peak," she said. However, she admitted that it is envisaged that "soon" a peak will be reached in the number of daily new infections.
Vergés stressed that the restrictive measures should not be lifted, but rather, adapted to make them more focused, with special attention to those who are most at risk, and with different velocities depending on the geographical territory or the characteristics of the population. "They should be based on progressive criteria, looking at the incidence of cases, the level of immunity, and always continuing with extreme hygiene measures and avoiding agglomerations", she said.
The minister explained that a Catalan government team is working on planning measures which could be applied, and on possible timetables for de-escalation.
At the same press conference this Monday, the minister for the presidency, Meritxell Budó, also referred to the process of lifting lockdown, warning that the Spanish executive must ensure this time that it "doesn't make another mistake" in its decision-making on the issue, that it must "listen to the experts", and decide at the right time and with the necessary protocol prepared.
Budó also emphasised once again that it is the Catalan administration which has been providing the health system in Catalonia with its required material, and the Spanish government's centralization of purchases under the state of alarm has only provided about 10% of the total.
Fall in emergency room numbers
Health minister Vergés explained that lately there has been a fall in arrivals at hospital emergency departments in Catalonia. Yesterday, the figure for people attended at emergency rooms was half the statistic for March 15th and a quarter of that of March 1st. Vergés said that this situation is thanks to the intervention of primary care services.
As for the seriously ill, she reported that of the 1,970 ICU beds in Catalonia, there are currently 1,512 occupied by coronavirus patients.
Family contact with patients
As well, Vergés explained that her ministry has a plan of action for emotional support and management of the acute stress among the public, which includes care for the sick at home but also communication issues for families who have members admitted in serious condition to hospitals or those who are at risk of anxiety crises.
"It is very important that this communication between family members and patients works well, wherever they are. And the accompaniment of people at the end of life," she said.
For this reason, the ministry is preparing a protocol so that patients admitted to care in any situation can have daily contact with the family, either through the ICU or through providing the necessary tools to patients, as well as through family visits in cases of anxiety.