All public events held in Catalonia of more than a thousand people must be suspended or postponed, while those with fewer than a thousand will only be allowed if the venue limits attendance to a third of its capacity. This is one of the “extraordinary measures” introduced by the Catalan authorities on Wednesday as the country went from a phase of “containment” to one of “alert,” in the efforts to control the spread of coronavirus.
As the number of confirmed infections rose to 125, with three deaths, the authorities introduced a series of extra measures to avoid large gatherings, such as ordering that all sports events, professional and amateur, must be held behind closed doors. With the new measures coming into force for 15 days from Thursday, Catalan president, Quim Torra said: “It’s possible that more serious and firmer measures will be introduced in the coming days. We ask for understanding.”
Torra also said that the government’s economic team will soon announce a plan of measures to counter the spread of the Covid-19 disease in Catalonia. “Our prime objective is managing coronavirus. We will make all the efforts that are necessary,” he said.
Avoid a more serious scenario
Meanwhile, the Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, justified the government’s actions, saying: “We want to avoid a more serious scenario, and that’s why we are taking action with these preventive measures.”
She also advised the country to “slow down a little over the next fortnight, as it’ll help us control the pandemic,” and she insisted that “transmission of the disease is firmly under control and the source of the contagion can be identified.”
With some parts of Spain choosing to close schools for two weeks, Vergés admitted that it was also a possibility in Catalonia, but insisted: “Everything that we consider appropriate, we will put into effect, when the right time comes.”
The home affairs minister, Miquel Buch, also took the floor in a joint press conference including Torra and Vergés, to say that “there are food supplies for all citizens.”
“In the past few days we’ve been in touch with wholesale distributors of food and basic products. We send a message of calm because we have no evidence that we won’t have all the food supplies needed,” he added.
The announcement of the measures on Wednesday follows proposals put forward by Catalonia’s judiciary to limit the number of marriages in Civil Registers, postponing certain hearings, as well as banning public attendance of proceedings in court.
The Catalan education department also asked for a halt on activities taking place outside schools that involve more than one center, and on Wednesday the education minister said schools should cancel any activities involving large numbers of children.
Meanwhile, work experience done by students on professional training courses in Catalan hospitals was frozen on Monday, with a recommendation made that the ban be extended to include university students doing such work experience.
While the authorities were announcing the new measures, the head of the association representing the groups that make Catalonia’s famous human towers recommended canceling or postponing any events planned for the next few days.
On Tuesday, the Spanish government introduced a series of measures to counter the spread of coronavirus, such as a ban on direct flights from Italy for two weeks, and ordering that all sports events on Spanish territory be played behind closed doors.
As for the next round of talks between the Catalan and Spanish governments that is planned for next week, Torra said the meeting should not be affected by the restrictions and could still go ahead via videoconference if necessary.