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[infox] Visiting Barcelona these days (march2020)? Practical information re:coronavirus

Soooo, you're in Barcelona or arriving in Barcelona within the next days and the CoVid-19 is now officially a pandemic so further measures are being put in place in many countries, including this one.

How this will affect me while in Barcelona?

TOURIST ACTIVITY

For the next two weeks (until March 26th), there'll be no public attendance to:

  • Sport matches
  • Theatres and music halls
  • Festivals and concerts (music, heritage....)
  • Large business conferences
  • Masses in churches

for the time being, EVERYTHING ELSE functions normally, albeit in certain sites the capacity will be reduced. This includes:

  • Hotels and tourist apartments
  • Restaurants and shops
  • Department stores
  • Museums (#)
  • Transportation (##)
  • Other public gatherings (under 1000 attendees)

(#) Some sites, ie Sagrada Familia, is reducing the 'capacity per hour' to have fewer visitors inside the premises at any time and allow for greater social distances
(##) No limitations at present on internal travelling. For international travel (outbound from Barcelona) check your specific destination. At present, there are no direct flights to Italy.

NOTE THESE MEASURES CAN CHANGE OVERNIGHT if the situation requires it as it's very fluid at present.

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WHAT DO I DO IF I FEEL UNWELL?

Should you feel unwell during your stay in Barcelona you should know that Catalonia is one of the bioregions with some of the best healthcare systems in Europe. Most of, both, the public and private facilities are world-class top of the range and can provide high-standard care and assistance to the population in need. Having said that, in cases of very high demand (as in this pandemic) the system can suffer stresses which might translate in longer waiting times and overcrowding of hospitals and ER and ICU units at certain moments. For this reason, it's IMPERATIVE during these weeks NOT to misuse the health services unless absolutely necessary. For visitors, note that you should first contact your insurer which will let you know WHERE do you need to go to get assistance should you need it. Note as well that for severe cases, you will receive free assistance at any public hospital regardless of whether you have or have not private health insurance for your trip.

So, steps in case you need health assistance:

-Remain calm. You'll find that many pharmacists, doctors and nurses can communicate in different languages. We have a non-national population in Barcelona of +300,000 (15% of the total) from over 120 different nationalities so our health system is equipped to be able to communicate with most of them if they are not fluent in Catalan, the local language, or in Spanish. The bigger the health centre (hospital, CAP...) the more chances you'll find personnel speaking different languages.

-For minor issues go to the nearest pharmacy. There are nearly 1,000 pharmacies in the city. Pharmacies open during commercial hours but there are several opening 24h and also there's a rotation turn in place by which every district has several pharmacies open during night hours every day. Check https://www.farmaguia.net/desktop/en/ Pharmacists are health professionals that can recommend non-prescription drugs and medication to solve minor issues (ie common cold, IBS, etc). If you carry your own doctor's prescription, make sure it's on proper letterheaded paper, better also if stamped. Note that some drugs that might require a prescription in your country might not need it here in Catalonia (and vice versa).

-If you feel you need to go to a healthcare centre for more serious evaluation, DO call your insurer and ask where do you need to go. If you have no insurance, call 061 from a "local" phone and explain your need (English and French operators available). This is the number of the Catalan Health Service (sort of NHS in the UK or Medicare/Medicaid/ACA in the US). They will evaluate your case and either address you to the nearest public health centre (CAP/UCAP or hospital) or will dispatch a doctor to your address. In case of emergency, call 112 and they'll send an ambulance unit. A CAP is an acronym for "centre for primary assistance" and UCAP is a "centre for urgent primary assistance" and it's the first place ALL citizens using the "universal healthcare coverage system" (free) need to go to. There are several CAPs strategically spread across the city to provide full coverage to everybody in Barcelona.

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2494 posts

-I shall stress to use these resources CAREFULLY and NOT TO go directly to the ER of a hospital unless it's a life or death situation. If while at the CAP/UCAP medical personnel deem necessary for you to go to a hospital they'll derive you to the appropriate one. This recommendation is especially sensible during this time of national health crisis. Carry your passport (and your credit card) with you, because, while medical emergency assistance in Catalonia is free of charge for everybody, under the universal health coverage, other services to non-residents are not. Still, don't worry, everybody that needs emergency assistance gets treated no matter whether resident or not and whether you have a credit card or not. I shall stress: emergency assistance only (situations that can place you or others in immediate danger: ie a heart attack or becoming infected with a contagious virus)

-Note our health care system is a mixed one, with public and private providers (hospitals and clinics). Most major private centres have agreements with the Catalan National Health Service to provide certain types of assistance under the "universal healthcare coverage system" (meaning, free of charge to the user) but not all and not for all services. If you go to a hospital on your accord, you need to understand whether it's a private or a public hospital since, as a non-resident, you might end up being billed for the full service. Since you're unlikely to know which one is which, do call your insurer before going to any hospital.

MOOD ON THE GROUND

Barcelonians -and the rest of Catalans for that matter- are, for the most part, very open to foreigners both residents and visitors. At present, during this crisis, there is no tangible resentment and/or racism against any nationality in particular, including Chinese nationals and/or other Asian-related ones.

As per daily life, most people here in Barcelona are expectative with the situation but not in a panic. In fact, one can see life going "as usual" in most cases. Needless to say, the troublesome situation in some neighbouring areas (ie Madrid to the West, or Italy to the East) have increased the concern but, unless/until the situation here changes, any visitor will still be able to "enjoy" his/her trip (minus the restrictions announced before). Until now, we're far from the situation in those areas but Barcelona is a major hub in Europe for visitors (businesses, congresses, tourists, students...) so spread of the contagion is likely and the situation could change for the worst (more restrictions put in place) in the coming weeks.

FINAL NOTES

Catalonia's government has certain powers in taking its own decisions/measures as it sees fit, so any advice given by your government that affects "Spain" might or might not be 100% accurate at a given time. Some autonomous communities (=provinces/states) in Spain might have in place different measures from others and these can be more restrictive.

Sources for LOCAL information in English here in Catalonia:

Health Dept of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia): http://canalsalut.gencat.cat/ca/salut-a-z/c/coronavirus-2019-ncov/
Press: https://english.vilaweb.cat/
News channel from the public national broadcaster of Catalonia: https://www.ccma.cat/324/ -not in English, use Google Translate

PS: as I am writing this, Italy has announced a "total closure" of the country for the next two weeks, meaning all shops, bars and restaurants will be closed.

Posted by
484 posts

Spain is more laxed than Italy. They have been at Level 2. for almost three weeks. Their numbers spread and increase daily.
Madrid, the Basque country and southern areas of Seville all have their outbreaks. People are being quarantined. I don’t understand their thinking of prevention or containment as they continue to allow travel within their country which to me increases carriers/exposures. Why not put the brakes on now to prevent going over the cliff, I don’t get it.
WHO announces its a pandemic today so perhaps that will help these countries come up with improved strategies to deal with CoVid-19

Posted by
986 posts

Folks,
Enric is one of most knowledgeable and trusted forum posters pertaining to the Cataluyna region on the RS forum. I encourage folks rontake under advisement his postings with high confidence he has only the best intention to be of assistance to travelers.
Thanks and safe travels!

Posted by
13 posts

I wish Rick Steves Travel would allow customers booked on upcoming European tours to reschedule for the same tour at the same time in 2021. Bump it all out one year. My logic is that it spares us all from entering into this very unpredictable and possibly extremely disruptive or dangerous situation, and it hopefully allows the company to organize a larger number of tours for 2021 so the company can accommodate the 2020 "rescheduled" customers as well as new paying 2021 customers. I may be naive about what it takes to increase the number of 2021 tours but this is the best suggestion I can come up with.

No business I know of is prepared for this situation in front of us, and I don't fault Rick Steves Travel at all for not having a good solution at this point. I just hope they can quickly come up with one that doesn't put all of us customers in a very tough spot.

Crossing fingers.

Posted by
2494 posts

UPDATE 12MARCH 2PM

Here it comes, some new measures announced today for the whole of Catalonia, including Barcelona:

  • Schools and universities to be closed for two weeks from tomorrow.
  • Public libraries, gyms, youth clubs and, in general, establishments run by the Barcelona City Hall, to be closed until April 13th.
  • Internal transportation capacity (trains, metro, bus) to be reduced by 2/3rds, This doesn't mean there won't be any but the frequency will be lower.
  • Sagrada Família and Casa-Museu Gaudí to be closed from tomorrow March 13th until further notice. Refunds will be issued.
  • Refunds for train tickets will be issued. More news here (only in Spanish, use Google Translate)
  • From midnight on March 15th, international cruisers won't be able to embark or disembark passengers in Catalonia for a period of two weeks.

No further news for now.

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UPDATE 13MARCH 10PM

IMPORTANT
The government of Catalonia has declared, a few minutes ago, a self-containment for the whole of the Catalan nation in order to avoid the collapse of the health care system. The Catalan President has just asked the Spanish President to issue the necessary orders to enforce this containment by cutting airports, ports and long-distance trains as these are managed by the Spanish State.

It should be expected, over the weekend, that Catalonia will become isolated for the next two weeks.

However, the Spanish President has declared the state of emergency and it's not clear, politically speaking, whether he will honour that request or whether he'll take a different approach.

As more information becomes available I will post it here.

Posted by
2494 posts

UPDATE 14MARCH 7PM

While the Spanish government hasn't yet taken any (effective) action regarding the newly declared 'state of emergency' and has postponed any decision until tomorrow Sunday, the Catalan government has already started to control entrances to Catalonia via long-distance trains (AVE and the like) at Sants station in Barcelona, as well as at the motorways AP-2/E-90 and AP-7/E-15 in the entrances to Catalonia coming from Madrid/Aragón and Valencia. Those suspected of being infected with CoVid19 are being either prevented entrance and/or taken to the hospital.

Politically, the situation is a bit unstable at present as the Catalan and Basque Country governments are not accepting the overtaking of their competences in Health and Safety and Police and Security by the Spanish government, as being discussed earlier this morning in Madrid. Late yesterday, the Catalan president declared the intention of sealing Catalonia for the next two weeks to contain the spread of the outbreak and avoid the collapse of the health care system. For that, and since the Spanish government manages airports, ports and the main network of trains, the Catalan president requested cooperation to the Spanish president to temporarily close these services. No response so far. Thus, since time is of the essence, the Catalan government has started to take measures of its own such as those described earlier. Unfortunately, the competences on international infrastructures are centralized in the hand of the Spanish government in Madrid and the Catalan government cannot force its closure.

More to follow.

Posted by
291 posts

Have just taken part in a moving tribute to health workers in Barcelona.
At exactly 10 o’clock EVERYONE came out onto their balconies to clap and cheer local health workers. The very few cars on the streets beeping their horns. So simple, but so sincere and moving. I am all welled up. A wave of honest, grateful applause right across the city.

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2494 posts

UPDATE 15MARCH 9AM

The Spanish government officially declared the 'state of emergency' yesterday evening. The measures are quite disappointing though as they do not follow the recommendations by the Catalan Presidency and the medical community and borders and transportation networks are not being closed for quarantine. Furthermore, the Spanish presidency has recentralized powers taking away some of the competences of regional governments, which were effectively fighting against the outbreak. Pathetic!

Anyway, for visitors/tourists in Catalonia the situation is as follows:

  • Supermarkets, pharmacies, tobacconists and hairdressers remain open (yes, hairdressers!, if it weren't such a serious matter it'd be laughable, but the incompetence of the Spanish government is such that one needs to be very concerned)
  • Bars, restaurants, museums, libraries, shops, parks... everything else is to be closed from today and for the next two weeks.
  • Oddly, food delivery businesses (Glovo, Deliveroo... ) can continue to operate as well (delivering food from where? no restaurants are allowed to be open!). In fairness, Glovo does also deliver food from supermarkets and other items.
  • Internal transportation (metro, bus, train) will continue to operate at reduced frequencies. It's not advised to use it unless strictly necessary.
  • Taxis can continue to operate, but it's up to each driver to do so. Some taxi companies: Taxi Class Rent tel.933070707 www.taxiclassrent.com ||| Barnataxi tel. 933222222 www.barnataxi.com ||| Ràdio Taxi 033 tel.933033033 www.radiotaxi033.com ||| Servi-Taxi tel.933 300 300 www.servitaxi.com ||| Taxi Ecològic tel.932783000 http://taxiecologic.com ||| Taxi Amic tel.934208088 www.taxi-amic-adaptat.com ||| Fono-Taxi tel.933001100 http://www.fonotaxi.net/
  • Airports remain open albeit it's not clear what airlines are flying in and out at present. Check with yours.
  • Health services continue to operate normally albeit the system is overloaded. For general questions call 012, if in need of assistance cal 061 and for emergencies 112 (the latter can be used from any mobile phone, that is, local or international SIM card)
  • People CANNOT wander the streets if it is not to go to any of these businesses, to work at one's office/company and/or to go to a health centre (CAP/clinic/hospital). Fines ranging from 500 to 2000€ could be issued for breaking this emergency decree. If visiting, stay at your hotel/apt!
  • No groups in the street are allowed. If moving about for any of the above reasons, do so individually. Equally, respect the social distance (1.5m/6 feet) if/when queueing for any reason.
  • If you have a dog, you can walk him in the proximity of your home only and just for his basic needs.

Let me be clear: NO beach, no beer on a terrace, no admiring Gaudí, no strolls. Stay safe, stay indoors and don't be a potential spreader... and don't get fined for acting irresponsibly. And yes, we also have some morons among us so don't be surprised if you come across people acting or behaving as if these rules were not in place.

I am not going to further comment on the stupidity of some of these orders nor the impossibility to effectively contain the outbreak with such loose measures. Know that the sentiment of our government here in Catalonia, and many of us citizens, in front of such surrealism is of outrage: the Spanish strip the powers of the Catalan and Basque governments that were acting far more diligently and instead propose a mickeymouse plan.

Needless to say that if you were planning to come to Barcelona or anywhere in Catalonia these days, do POSTPONE your plan as you'd need to be confined in your apt/hotel for the length of your stay.

As per refunds, this is on a case-by-case basis but most businesses are acting responsibly and offering reasonable arrangements for cancellations: from returning the money to allowing a postponement for a later date.

More to follow.

Posted by
2494 posts

Ah yes, I forgot... many companies (especially offices) continue doing business but most of their workers telework from home. Just in case you need to know :)