Catalonia has this Monday banned gatherings of more than 10 people, both in public and in private. However, the ban does not affect public transport or workplaces. This prohibition is one of the new measures announced today by Catalan president Quim Torra to curb the concerning level of new coronavirus infections across the country. As he also explained, other restrictions already in force are to be maintained, and once again reminded Catalan about the three basic rules: maintaining distances, of at least 1.5 metres from others; the mandatory use of masks; and frequent hand washing.
All nightlife venues in Catalonia, already closed down, will remain closed; and the "curfew", setting closing time for bars and restaurants at 1am at the latest, will continue in force. Likewise, the ban on drinking alcohol in public places and the newly-introduced prohibition on smoking in public - wherever a 2 metre safety distance from others cannot be maintained - will also remain obligatory.
As well, Torra announced that special "measures" will be taken in four Catalan locations: Canovelles, Granollers, Terrassa and Les Franqueses. This follows the PCR testing blitzes carried out by Catalan health authorities in recent days, in areas where Covid-19 infection rates are high. The Catalan health authorities have been setting up testing facilities in central locations in the chosen areas, and calling on members of the public to turn up and get tested.
Operation September begins
It is not yet September, but starting today, Operation September begins. This is the name Torra used to referred to the plan for the three weeks before the start of the new school year. They are key weeks, said the Catalan president. "All that might happen in the autumn and winter is at stake in the next few weeks," he explained. In respect to this, he also announced that when schools open on Monday September 14th, masks will be compulsory everywhere for those over 12 years of age. In areas where there is high risk of contagion, this obligation will be extended to include everyone aged over 6.
Torra stated that between September 15th and November 15th, half a million PCR tests would be carried out in schools.
In addition, a special meeting of the Catalan cabinet has been called for Tuesday to present the detailed version of the plan produced by the Catalan education and health ministries for the return to school. Torra announced that, as part of this, primary school class sizes will be kept to 20 students or less, and that at secondary level, classroom groups "will be as small as possible."
Reduce social contact
Catalan health minister Alba Vergés, who also took part in this joint press conference, explained that "we are facing key weeks". And in this regard, she stressed the importance of reducing social contacts to try to slow down spread of the virus because, at present, there is "growth" that "we do not like."
"When we are talking about coronavirus, gatherings with the extended family, gatherings with friends, are not synonymous with security," she said. "We can all be transmitters of the virus."
"We've slipped back three weeks"
"We have gone back three weeks, we can't continue in this way," said Catalonia's public health secretary Josep Maria Argimont, explaining that in the coming days the "curve will continue to surge." As a result, he has called for “everyone’s cooperation” to try to reduce contagions and flatten the curve once again.