The situation in senior citizens' care homes in Catalonia has been one of the Quim Torra government's major concerns as the coronavirus pandemic has reached crisis point. The alarming numbers of deaths registered - with a new total released last night of 1,123 fatalities in the homes - have forced the Catalan administration to take structural action to improve its response. From now on the health ministry will take responsibility for the response to the care homes, whereas they had previously been part of the portfolio of labour and social affairs in Catalonia.
The issue has once again inflamed tension between the two partners in the Catalan government coalition, JxCat and ERC, and the argument went public last week when president Quim Torra expressed his dissatisfaction with the way this matter was being managed, which affects two ministries run by ERC: the labour and social affairs department, headed by Chakir el Homrani, and health, directed by Alba Vergés.
However, just how these changes came about is described differently by the two parts of the government: sources close to Torra say that the president yesterday told his vice president, Pere Aragonès (ERC), of the need to take specific steps to remedy the situation, and especially to demonstrate to the public that action was being taken on this critical issue. On the other hand, Aragonès's office explains that the two departments were already discussing the measures to expedite the response to the illness in rest homes and, last night, after a meeting between the two ministers and the vice president, it was decided to centralize the powers in the health ministry.
Delayed press conference
The decision was made by all three departments, and Torra did not know until shortly before the launch of the publicly announced press conference. In fact, due to the vice president having difficulty in communicating with Torra to let him know the new distribution of these powers between the ministries departments, today's daily coronavirus press conference by the Catalan government was delayed for 45 minutes.
On Wednesday morning Torra had a video conference with the sector of senior citizens' residences, with minister Chakir el Homrani taking part, and during which those responsible for the sector transmitted their discomfort. The ministry of labour and social welfare had reported late on Tuesday night that 1,123 people had now died from coronavirus at the residences.