More than 160,000 people have been forced back into coronavirus lockdown in the Spanish region of Catalonia after a fresh surge of infections. Another 938 positive coronavirus cases were recorded this morning taking the total in the region to 78,302. The latest move comes just weeks after a national lockdown was lifted.
Catalonia’s capital Barcelona is a popular tourist destination with travellers from the UK and sinvce July 4, Britons have been allowed to travel to Spain without self-isolating on return.
But just as a judge approved the regional government’s stay-at-home order for residents of the Lleida area, about 110 miles west of Barcelona, tensions rose over how to handle an increase in cases in a suburb of the Catalan capital.
Tourism-dependent Spain, one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries with more than 28,000 deaths from the pandemic, brought a tough national lockdown to an end on June 21.
More than 170 clusters have sprung up since then, prompting regional authorities to impose a patchwork of local restrictions which have confused locals and angered businesses.
Tensions are at their highest in Catalonia because the wealthy north-eastern region of 7.5 million people is seeing the biggest number of new cases.
And an acrimonious push for Catalonia’s independence in recent years has kept relations strained between its separatist leaders and the central government in Madrid.
A spokesman for Quim Torra’s regional government said: “The maximum priority of the Catalan government is people’s health and life and there cannot be any judicial interference that complicates the collective fight against the pandemic.”
The administration is urging people to comply with all the fresh measures including a restriction on gatherings of more than 10 people in three neighbourhoods of L’Hospitalet, a Barcelona suburb that is home to around 260,000.
Such restrictions need to be approved by a judge and the Catalan government said it would appeal against the ruling.
The limit on gatherings is part of a resolution asking residents in those areas in L’Hospitalet to stay home, though the limit is not mandatory there.
Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau told local channel TV3 she was worried about the coronavirus outbreaks and said a “small step backwards” might be needed.
But she stopped short of announcing a lockdown or any other measures for Barcelona, which is Spain’s second-largest city and one of the most popular with tourists.
While Catalonia, Spain’s second-most populous region, is the first to return its citizens to home confinement, parts of Galicia have been sealed off to visitors and a Basque town imposed a curfew to tackle their own outbreaks.
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