From the front line of the covid pandemic , Catalan municipalities have had to step forward to try to save local economies, very affected by restrictions on mobility, tourism and restaurants. “The coronavirus has touched the waterline of our municipalities,” laments, for example, the mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Nuria Parlon.
ANNIVERSARY OF THE PANDEMIC
Mayors on the ropes in the year of the covid
A thirty deputies have spoken these days with the newspaper about their experience, their experiences and concerns in recent months. Here is the last installment with your opinions.
In the top row, from left to right, Adam Tomàs (Amposta), Ada Colau (Barcelona), Agnès Ferré (La Bisbal del Penedès) and Maurici Jiménez (Castell-Platja d’Aro). Below, Marta Madrenas (Girona), Josep Mayoral (Granollers), Josep Vidal (Llavorsí), Montse Mindan (Roses) and Kenneth Martínez (El Vendrell).
ANNIVERSARY OF THE PANDEMIC
Mayors on the front line of the covid
Bellver de Cerdanya
Santa Coloma de Gramenet
Vielha and Mijarán
Bellver de Cerdanya
One of the busiest and most preferred tourist destinations by the people of Barcelona is Bellver de Cerdanya , a perfect Pyrenean town to disconnect that has seen how in recent months with the perimeter confinement of La Cerdanya and Ripollés businesses have not been able to raise their heads. In this way, Xavier Porta, the mayor of Bellver, negatively values the first year living with the virus.
In addition to the economic and human losses, it sees the low spirits of its population as more dangerous. “While it is true that the economic and human losses are very important, the moral damage is no less. Now we have a society with very low morale and with little reactivation capacity ”, laments the president.
The perimeter confinement of the region was joined shortly after by the municipal confinement, which, like the mayor of La Seu or Ripoll, they have not fully understood. “I believe that a fair criterion has not been applied since a similar situation cannot be analyzed in a population with a very low density such as that of rural areas with a population with a very high density such as the urban area”, says Porta .
With the good figures that are being given from Salut, the mayor wants the measures to raise the spirits of his fellow citizens: “I want the situation to improve, to reduce the impact of the pandemic and for this to be reflected in the adoption of adequate measures that allow the recovery of an emotionally much more positive society ”.
Carles Pellicer, mayor of Reus , is clear that 2020 has been a very hard and strange year. “We are immersed in a triple crisis: health, economic and social. We must respond to the three as the closest administration to the citizens that we are ”.
Pellicer reiterates that getting out of this triple crisis is a collective effort and that it will not be easy for any municipality. “From the city council we were among the first to launch an ambitious Economic and Social Reactivation Plan, endowed with 4.5 million euros. This plan continues in 2021, maintaining some of the actions and promoting new ones ”, he explains.
To alleviate some of the effects of confinement and restrictions, the council promoted policies such as the ‘Reus Bonds’, funds that the city council has made available to the public to use to buy in shops in Reus, and which until now have been a success recognized by the sector itself.
Looking ahead, the mayor hopes that the situation will improve, especially the health situation as vaccination progresses. Although there is something that is clear and that is that the economic and social effects will last over time. “From the Reus City Council we give continuity to the Economic and Social Reactivation Plan, but our room for maneuver is limited.
The involvement of all levels of the administration is necessary to get involved in caring for the most vulnerable and in the reactivation of economic activity and the consolidation and generation of jobs “, Pellicer sentence.
Luck has been on the side for Rialp (Pallars Sobirà) since of its 661 inhabitants only 16 have been infected. “Despite everything, the impact of the covid in the municipality has been minimal until today and without any deaths,” Gerard Sabarich, its mayor, who has been in office since 2007, is delighted.
The also vice-president of the Tourist Board of the Lleida Provincial Council is one of those who is most critical of the Government’s management. “I am very disappointed in the government. I feel too protected by a government that often runs into contradictions, that has not helped its people, small businesses and the self-employed enough ”, he criticized.
Among the measures that these months have not fully understood are the closure of non-essential businesses on weekends, the municipal confinement and the ski slopes open to residents. “This is surreal. If the government closes the economy, it must prepare an economic shock plan for the Pyrenees. The ski slopes generate a lot of wealth and places of work ”, judges the mayor.
Despite the disagreements, Sabarich also criticizes himself and in the future hopes that he will not only have to make a living from tourist activities. “I believe that we are going to be more prudent in health, and above all it will serve us eminently tourist municipalities like ours to learn to diversify and not focus all activity on tourism,” he emphasizes. And ask that they not be forgotten. “I hope that the people of the city appreciate the high quality of life that we have,” he ends.
In the summer Costa Daurada a situation similar to that of Tremp, in Pallars Jussà, has been experienced. Despite the fact that the health crisis has been controlled in the municipality, the source of contagion in the STS residence in Salou cannot be ignored.
“We cannot ignore reality and we have to regret the outbreak that occurred in the residence and social health center, where there was a contagious situation that, fortunately, was resolved satisfactorily, but that cost the lives of about twenty people”, regrets its mayor, Pere Granados.
Although the episode has been hard, the mayor of Salou is satisfied with the exhaustive work they have carried out to comply with the regulations, since it is a tourist site. “During the summer months, a time when there was a significant movement of people from second homes, we did not have any source of viral contamination,” he boasts.
Although the confinements have hampered the activity, what has worked the most in the municipality are the visitors from second homes. “They have helped to give life to the business and to maintain the level of activity in Salou. It should be noted that Salou ranks second in revenue collection due to the tourist tax, behind Barcelona ”, he explains.
With the vaccines he hopes that the pandemic can be controlled and Salou will return to what it was. “If there is no mobility, there is no tourism. Salou offers healthy tourism and many activities can be carried out if the regulatory sanitary measures are complied with ”, explains Granados, who has allocated 8 million euros to alleviate the effects of the crisis.
Santa Coloma de Gramenet
“Emotionally it has been terrible.” This is how the mayor of Santa Coloma de Gramenet , Núria Parlon, defines the last year . “Neighbors who are no longer with us, families who have not been able to say goodbye to their loved ones and who mourn their loss This is devastating and breaks our souls personally and as a community, “he adds.
One of the great changes that have come after the pandemic is the increase in demand for social services by a segment of the population, the middle classes, which until now did not need them, he explains.
Children with masks in a primary school in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, last September.
Regarding mobility restrictions, he considers that the large municipalities in the region have to maintain the same mobility restrictions as Barcelona, given that they make up the same territorial reality where there are no borders and even share streets. In addition to having the advantage of having all the necessary services for citizenship unlike a smaller municipality.
“The pandemic has been a torpedo to the waterline of our city’s economy. Especially in the restaurant sector, as well as local commerce and services, sports equipment management companies, etc … which are suffering terribly from the effects of COVID19 ”he explains. The city council has increased aid to the most affected sectors, but ensures that they need more extra-municipal resources to be able to face the consequences of what the Covid year has meant.
A month ago and scarcely did he experience confinement due to covid due to a respiratory condition. Aware of this, the mayor of Terrassa , Jordi Ballart, knows the difficulties and pain that the virus has brought for many people.
“It has been and is hard, but we have also shown that we have the capacity to resist and combat the pandemic, to generate vaccines in record time, strengthen public services …”, comments Ballart, who is positive with what has been learned . “There are many things that seemed impossible to us, or we were told that they were impossible, and we have been able to do them with a lot of effort. We are stronger than we thought ”, he continues.
For the mayor of Terrassa, the restrictions on mobility and economic activity have been forceful, but that have served to improve the rates and the coronavirus figures. “Finding points of balance is not easy, but they exist.
In the last few months we have been learning what works and what doesn’t ”, explains Ballart. Although the health crisis has been contained, it will also allocate aid to the businesses that have suffered the most. “Terrassa will allocate 2 million euros in aid to the most affected sectors,” he notes.
Ballart hopes that in the coming months the Government will get closer to the people and cooperate with the municipalities to come out of the health crisis together. “This is not a time for partisanship, but for adding. The priority is the people, restarting the country and the cities, recovering the economy and employment, as well as preserving health as much as possible ”, concludes Jordi Ballart.
For Eduard Rovira, Mayor of Torredembarra , it has been a stressful, strange, complicated and difficult year to manage. As in any other municipality, the year has been full of changes, which have surely come to stay.
Among them are shopping habits (the increase in online purchases) or changes in the garbage collection system; Regarding the administration, the adaptation has not been easy and the change to telework has meant a great change at a technological level. “In addition, the measures that have been applied have varied, we have gone from periods totally confined to semi-confined, to very open and we have had to adapt to the circumstances,” he says.
As for the toughest restrictions, those of mobility, he understands and shares that they have been maintained for so long, although in the case of Torredembarra, a coastal municipality with a lot of second homes, this municipal confinement led to not receiving many people, especially the weekends, which they bought in town and gave a lot of life to the restaurant sector.
The hourly measures of catering and the closure of non-essential shops on weekends also had a very negative effect on these economic sectors. “The only sector that has surely seen an increase in business volume is that of retail food,” he defends.
Looking forward to the future, he hopes to have learned a lot about how to handle a crisis situation and to be able to improve the ability to adapt to a new reality that has come to stay.
Vielha and Mijaran
The pandemic has affected people’s lives at all levels and in Vielha they know this well, since in recent weeks it has been one of the areas with the highest risk index. With a population of 5,000, the main measures of the city council have been aimed at helping people to overcome the crisis.
“In the whole of 2020 we approved aid and subsidies worth more than 400,000 euros destined to alleviate the effects of the crisis”, explains the mayor, Juan Antonio Serrano.
Part of this aid has gone to families who lost their jobs and to businesses and freelancers that were affected by the restrictions. The mayor regrets that the Government made the same confinement in Barcelona as in the Vall d’Aran.
“The situation is serious and worrying, because many establishments have closed and others are living as they can. We hope that the Generalitat will pay attention to the local administrations of the Pyrenees, because we are fed up with them telling us what to do from afar, ”says Serrano.
With the improvement of the epidemiological situation and the appearance of vaccines, the mayor of Vielha is hopeful. “The future is unpredictable, but we have to be positive, and although we will still continue to suffer the effects of the health crisis, we must not decline. If the vaccines arrive and work well, in a few years we can regain activity prior to the pandemic, ”Serrano concludes.