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The Catalan health department will ask the Procicat committee to reduce the maximum number of people permitted in gatherings to six, instead of the current figure of 10. This was announced on Tuesday by public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon at a joint press conference with the secretary of transparency and open government, Jordi Foz, and the coordinator of the Covid-19 unit, Jacobo Mendioroz. "The idea is for people to move with groups living under the same roof, so-called bubble groups, to establish fixed patterns of contacts," Dr Mendioroz explained, saying that the measure was implemented in New Zealand, where there is now virtually no incidence of Covid-19.

The department warned that Covid-19 indicators are shooting up again in Catalonia. "We expected the current high contagion data at the end of the month, not now," admitted Argimon, who explained that the country's R0 reproduction index has risen from less than the critical value of 1 to 1.13 "in just a few days". According to the public health secretary, there are two major health regions that are contributing to the curve rising again: the Alt Pirineu i Aran, and Barcelona. In contrast with recent months, Lleida is now the health region that is behaving best. "It continues to have a downward trend," Argimon explained.

New measures to stop infections in Catalonia

The aim is to stop the "multiplication of cases" and that is why the public health secretary has announced that they will ask the Procicat civil protection committee, which sets the rules relating to the health emergency, to reduce the maximum number of people per gathering from 10 to 6. As well, they are also studying the application of new measures in the Alt Pirineu i Aran, such as those applied last week in the cities of Girona and Salt: limitations to 50% of capacity in bars and restaurants, among other steps. With regard to the increase in cases in the frontier district of La Cerdanya, the Catalan president Quim Torra earlier this Tuesday raised the possibility of confining this region to reduce Covid-19 expansion, but the health department has ruled it out.

Cribatge massiu PCR Salt ACN

Mass PCR testing in Salt (near Girona) / ACN

The health department will begin a new mass testing programme tomorrow in Manlleu (Central Catalonia) where 1,200 PCR tests are envisaged, aimed at detecting asymptomatic coronavirus cases. With all the screenings campaigns that have been carried out in Catalonia, a total of 69,575 tests have been given, of which 2.4% have been positive. Secretary Argimon repeated the importance of complying with quarantine orders, which from next week will be reduced to 10 days for close contacts of persons testing positive. “This should enable people to comply better with the norms,” Argimon said.

Infection at social gatherings and transmission to schools

"We are close to one million deaths worldwide, we mustn't relax," warned the secretary of public health. Argimon said that in fact most outbreaks occur in the immediate family, social and work environment, in situations where we trust one another. “We take off our mask to have a beer, for example, and it’s in this socialization where we have the most virus spread,” he noted. Catalan government spokesperson Meritxell Budó had also noted earlier this Tuesday that there is a need to reach accords with the restaurant sector on more protection measures on bar terraces, including the possibility of using masks except when eating or drinking.

Secretary Argimon asked people to be as demanding with one another as they are with schools. He also mentioned that there is an increase in suspected cases of Covid-19 in children and young people from 0 to 15 years, but according to the secretary this should not be interpreted as an increase in transmission in schools, but rather, an increase in these particular symptoms. “Nasal congestion, if it is not accompanied by other symptoms, isn't a concern,” Argimon declared.

 

Main image: A group of women on a bar terrace in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat. / ACN

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