Catalan president Quim Torra, considers "reckless" ending the full lockdown without considering a "massive testing plan" for coronavirus or having "enough medicines". For this reason, and taking into account that “ICUs are at their limits” and that "the hospitals are completely overloaded", he considers that the extension of the state of alarm must still include "a full lockdown except for essential services". This was communicated to the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez, during the meeting of regional presidents held remotely this morning.
"We don't want the Spanish government to make a mistake, we can't afford it," he said at a subsequent institutional appearance, where he also revealed that the presidents of the Castile and Leon and the Balearic Islands autonomous communities, one belonging to the People’s Party (PP) and the other to the Socialist Party (PSOE), agreed with this approach. For Torra it is still not "the time to relax" and he has warned that, despite being a "sacrifice", it takes "a few weeks" to efficiently plan how to lift the confinement. "We have to do it right the first time, we can't fail", he said.
According to Torra, the plan to end the lockdown must be done "rigorously" and testing for the virus, otherwise it will put "non-essential workers" at risk. He favours a "decentralized" operation, that follows the experts' requests. "The ending of the lockdown must be controlled, well planned, effective and agreed upon with Catalonia", warned the president, saying he was open to a "collaboration to design it together" with the Spanish government and the other autonomous communities. Torra is committed to making it "progressive" both in respect to areas and people at risk and accompanied by “a medicines plan”. However, he warned that "it is still not the right time" and "there is nothing to suggest that April 13th will be".
Return of regional authorities’ powers
At the meeting, Torra also warned Sánchez about the lack of protective materials, especially in the homes for the elderly, and asked him to return the regional authorities’ powers. "In view of the failure of the centralised supply system, we are asking for the return of our powers", said Torra, who explained that the Catalan government has provided 90% of the materials for its healthcare system, as opposed to the 10% provided by the Spanish government.
"In spite of the recentralisation, the Catalan government has carried the burden", he stated during the meeting, while also demanding more economic resources from the central government. Out of the 1,800 million euros of extra healthcare costs that the Catalan government estimates there will be this year, the Spanish government has announced that it will only transfer 50 million. An amount that the head of the Catalan executive considers completely insufficient.
Torra also asked for the implementation of a Universal Basic Income and to put off social security contributions and taxes to companies and the self-employed. "All citizens must have money to shop," he warned. In addition, he has asked for the deficit to be made more flexible and for local town halls to be able to use surpluses this year.
At the remotely held conference of presidents, Sánchez revealed that he plans to isolate those who tested positive to coronavirus but remain asymptomatic. With this measure he intends to slow down the spread of the pandemic. The Spanish president requested the presidents of the autonomous regions to provide a list of both public and private infrastructures that can be used to receive such cases. Sánchez also announced that between today and tomorrow, one million rapid tests will be distributed among the autonomous communities.