LATEST: Catalonia delays lifting coronavirus restrictions amid worsening infection rates

LATEST: Catalonia delays lifting coronavirus restrictions amid worsening infection rates
Restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen on November 23rd. Photo: AFP
The Spanish region of Catalonia will keep its current coronavirus restrictions in place and will not progress to more relaxed measures on Monday as originally planned, due to worsening infection rates, the regional government said on Thursday.

The northeastern region was due to progress to de-escalation Phase Two and loosen restrictions on socializing and movement within the territory but regional Health Minister Alba Vergés announced on Thursday that Catalonia will stay in phase 1 for two more weeks until December 21st.

The downward trend in the Covid-19 infection rate – which saw the outbreak risk drop from 'very high' to 'high' category on Monday – appeared to have stalled according to the latest figures, prompting regional authorities to delay further reopening. 

Data revealed that the figures have begun to rise again, a week after bars, restaurants, cultural and sports venues began to reopen after more than a month of closure.

On Thursday, data showed that the Covid-19 transmission rate, also known as the R number, increased for the fifth day in a row, reaching 0.92 from 0.77 on Monday.

If the R number rises above 1 it means that each person who has tested positive to coronavirus will be spreading it on average to at least one other person.

Under Catalonia’s de-escalation plan designed to reopen the region after infections reached a second wave peak in early November, authorities said restrictions would  only be loosened to Phase 2 if the transmission rate dropped below R0.90

Vergés said in a press conference on Thursday that because data showed a “sharp change”, authorities were obliged to step up precautions.

Catalan public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon added that they had to avoid a spike in new infections “bringing the system to a standstill, turning hospitals into “Covid hospitals” like in the first wave.” 

Under Phase 2 of the de-escalation plan, the region’s borders would still be closed but the weekend confinement of residents to their own city limits would have been loosened to allow people to travel within county borders between Friday 6am and Monday 6am.

 It would also have seen shops increase occupancy from 30 percent to 50 percent and seen shopping centres reopen with a 30 percent limit.

Bars and restaurants would also see their capacity indoors grow from 30 percent to 50 percent.

Under Phase 2 such establishments would still have to close by 9.30pm as a curfew of between 10pm and 6am remains in place.

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