The epidemic curve rises again in Catalonia. In just a couple of days, the speed of transmission of the virus (the Rt, which measures how many people infects, on average, one positive) has skyrocketed: from 0.91 to 1.11.
That is, out of every 100 positives, another 111 people are infected. The rate of expansion of the virus is already above the threshold (more than 1) recommended by health authorities to keep the pandemic at bay and the incidence of infections continues to rise: 211 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days.
The change in trend occurs one week before Christmas, when more trips and social interactions are expected, and puts at risk the plan to relax restrictions designed by the Generalitat for these dates.
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“The data is getting complicated. They are telling us that there may be a change in trend. We are evaluating it. We see an increase in positivity and it makes us alert ”, admitted the Government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, after the Executiu Council on Tuesday.
Budó has slipped that they will need two or three days to analyze whether the trend is confirmed or not and, in principle, if it is ratified, the current limitations -30% in restaurants will be maintained; increase in capacity to a thousand people in cultural centers – but it will not be possible to move forward from the reopening phase.
“From there we will see if we have to make adjustments to the Christmas plan once we analyze the data. We would communicate it as far in advance as possible ”, he stressed.
Budó has suggested that the spread of infections may be linked to the increase in social relations during the Constitution Bridge.
“It is important to raise awareness that increased mobility and social interaction lead to an increase in cases. These data could be a consequence of the increase in mobility and social interaction that was seen during the bridge ”, pointed out Budó.
After the peak of the second wave at the end of October, Catalonia began a vertical decline in transmission in November, sponsored by the harsh social restrictions applied to curb the pandemic.
The community began the de-escalation on November 23 with the reopening of bars and restaurants , although it had to slow down the pace of reopening when the indicators stopped falling .
Amid the pressure from the economic sectors and the fear of an upturn in infections in the coming days , the Government chose to reopen, from this Monday, the shopping centers, expand the capacity of large cultural spaces (such as the Liceu de Barcelona ) and go from a weekend municipal confinement to a regional one.
Heading into ChristmasThe Generalitat proposed expanding social gatherings from six to 10 people and making the curfew more flexible (now at 10 p.m.) until 1.30 a.m. With the data on the table, however, all reopening plans are hanging by a thread.
“There will be Christmas, sure, but depending on how the data is, we will have to adjust some measures or others. We will have to see if the trend is confirmed or not ”, insisted Budó. The Procicat, the government body that coordinates the response to the pandemic, will meet this Tuesday.
The leadership of the Department of Health has repeated several times that, with the current hospital pressure, they cannot allow a rebound in cases or enter, de facto, a third wave . There are 1,511 people hospitalized, 351 of them in intensive care.
Occupancy figures too high to face another acceleration of infections. Especially, taking into account the antecedents in the behavior of the virus: ICU admissions went from 179 on October 10 to 594 on November 10. Assuming a growth in intensive care occupation when the baseline level exceeds 350, double that of October, would put the health system in check.
The Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, avoided pronouncing this Monday, when the epidemic curve was already beginning to rise, about how her de-escalation plans were and whether her project for the Christmas holidays was in danger.
The Health Minister limited herself to saying that they will “analyze the data” and recalled that “you have to be very strict in complying with the protection measures” and the restrictions applied. He did emphasize, however, that they do not rule out any scenario, including stopping the plans if the epidemic curve worsens.
For his part, the Minister of the Interior, Miquel Sàmper, went further and admitted that the Mossos d’Esquadra and the local police will not be able to control that during the holidays the prohibition of not meeting more than ten people from two bubbles is observed.
“It is very difficult, if we already have difficulties to control the weekend confinement because we have the troops that we have, it would be wrong to say that we can control the families, it is impossible that we can control if it is fulfilled.”
For this reason, he called for the co-responsibility of families: “We call for co-responsibility. We have the responsibility of setting the measures, but that of their exercise belongs to everyone. Let’s not forget that we politicians and the police can be fooled, but the virus cannot ”.
Health voices inside and outside the Government show their concern. “It looks bad. Even with the oscillations of the weekend, the increase in transmission speed is sharp. The number of cases has also skyrocketed and in the ICU there are some more admissions.
If, as possible, they stabilize or go up, bad plan for Christmas. We are not doing well, ”laments Toni Trilla, head of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona.
And while the health wing of the Government holds its breath in the face of the rebound in the epidemic curve, the Minister of Business, Ramon Tremosa, points to the restoration union’s campaign to promote consumption in bars and restaurants this Christmas.
The owner of the Company will participate in an event, tomorrow Wednesday, which has the support of renowned figures from radio and television. “Within the restoration there are certain measures: reduced capacity indoors and distance between tables outside. Catering is safe and people must be encouraged to go. Now, let’s do it responsibly ”, has defended Budó.
Despite the poor evolution of the epidemic curve, the Government spokesperson has assured that, for the moment, the bars will remain open. “As long as we have the data we have, there is nothing that makes us think that we are not going to the bars to boost the economy. We are not considering any contrary measure, ”he said.