Covid-19 cases in the Metropolitan area of Barcelona, including in the city itself, have been increasing over the last few weeks, causing major concern and a reintroduction of restrictions.
The local Catalan government has advised people not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary and to stay within the city limits in bid to curb the latest outbreaks, however fines cannot be issued for going outside without a valid reason like before, and authorities are appealing to people’s social responsibility.
Masks have been mandatory in the whole of Catalonia since July 9th, but many people had been wearing them long before that.
The difference now however is that masks must be worn everywhere, even outside where social distancing is possible. The only reasons you can remove them are for eating and drinking, exercising, sunbathing and swimming.
But masks are not the only things that have changed in the city, the lack of tourists is also strongly felt. La Rambla now feels like any other street, you can stand in front of the cathedral and take a picture without any other people and the famous market, La Boqueria, is almost empty.
Shops, bars and restaurants remain open; however, dining venues have been reduced to 50 percent capacity once again and only meetings of up to 10 people are allowed.
People sit on the stairs of the National Art Museum of Barcelona (MNAC) in Barcelona on July 25, 2020. The Catalan government ordered the closure of all nightclubs, discos and event halls across this region of northeastern Spain following a surge in cases of coronavirus.AFP
On July 18th, all public cultural and sporting venues were closed, meaning that cinemas, gyms, sports facilities and nightclubs had to be shut down again, just little more than a month after they reopened.
While some restrictions have now loosened, and gyms and cinemas can re-open, nightclubs remain closed. Despite the ‘stay at home’ request from the local government, most locals are ignoring the advice and continue to eat out in bars and restaurants and flock to the beaches.
In the stifling summer heat, these are some of the only places you can escape outdoors and not have to wear a mask.
Beach capacity in the city has recently been reduced by 15 percent, and on weekends people are often turned away when it’s too full or are required to queue until others leave.
As of July 29th, even more restrictions have been brought into place. There is also now also a two-week ban on drinking alcohol in public places, which in Spain is known as ‘botellón’.
This means no more drinking on the beaches or in the parks. Many of the new outbreaks in the region have stemmed from parties and social gatherings and authorities are hoping this new ban will help to curb new infections. Fines ranging from 3,001 to 15,000 Euros can be issued to anyone breaking the rules.
People sit at a terrace bar overlooking the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona on July 25, 2020. AFP.
On Monday, July 27th, Quim Torra, president of Catalonia asked citizens to act with ‘responsibility’ in order to avoid a more extreme lockdown.
“The 10 most important days of the summer lie ahead of us now”, he said. We have 10 days to see if, with a renewed collective effort, we can start turning things around. Because if we don’t, we’ll have to take a step backwards”.
While locals don’t seem to have followed his advice so far, without as many tourists in the city, social distancing is easier – bars and restaurants in the centre are not so crowded and there’s space on the beach during weekdays.
People here fear the virus, but there seems to be an even greater fear of a second lockdown. Across Spain, people were confined to their homes, not even being allowed out for a walk in more two months, and most people are terrified of having to go through that again.
It seems that most people just want to able to enjoy the outdoors as much as they can, in case a new mandatory lockdown is put in place.
Recent figures released on July 30th, however, do suggest that the spread of the virus in Barcelona is slowing down and that the restrictions and social distancing measures may just be working. Even so, locals can’t let their guard down just yet.