Barcelona to reimpose curfew to fight virus surge


Barcelona and other cities in northeastern Spain will reimpose a night-time curfew starting this weekend to fight a surge in virus cases after the measure won court approval on Friday.

The curfew is intended to discourage social gatherings on beaches and in parks to curb a spike in cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant, especially among unvaccinated young people.

Catalonia’s regional government asked the courts this week for permission to restore a nightly curfew between 1:00 am and 6:00 am in areas where infection rates surpass 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period.

The top court in the northeastern region on Friday approved the move, which will affect 161 municipalities, including popular beach resorts like Sitges, Salou and Lloret de Mar.

“It is a difficult measure, but we must stop the infections, protect lives and the health system. It will take effect tonight,” Catalonia’s regional head Pere Aragones tweeted after the court ruling.

The curfew will be in place until July 23 although the Catalan government can ask to extend it.

Given the “absurdity” of Catalonia’s epidemiological situation, the curfew will likely have to be extended for several weeks, the court said.

Catalonia, the epicentre of Spain’s jump in infections, has already ordered all public gatherings to finish by 12:30 am and restricted gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Images of large groups of youths gathering on Barcelona’s beaches or in popular nightlife districts have become common since Spain lifted a nationwide night-time curfew in early May.

With an infection rate of 1,107 cases per 100,000 people—more than double the national average—Catalonia is one of the hardest-hit areas in Europe.

Among people aged 20 to 29, the figure stands at 3,375 cases per 100,000 people.

Cancelled leave

Unlike in previous infections waves, the death toll has remained low and intensive care units have not so far been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

But the Catalan authorities have cancelled health workers’ days off this weekend because the number of intensive care beds filled by COVID-19 patients has been steadily rising.

Spain’s regional governments, which are responsible for handling the pandemic in their areas, need court authorisation for tighter restrictions that infringe on rights, such as travel bans and curfews.

With infections rising across Spain, other regions are also tightening measures.

The eastern region of Valencia earlier this week won court approval to restore a curfew in 32 towns, while Cantabria in the north is waiting for court approval to introduce a curfew in dozens of towns.

But approval is not guaranteed, with a court in Spain’s Canary Islands on Wednesday rejecting a curfew request.

Spain’s vaccination programme has worked through age groups, meaning those in their 20s and 30s are only now starting to get jabs, leaving them vulnerable to the new Delta variant.

Over three-quarters of COVID-19 patients in intensive care in Catalonia have not been vaccinated, regional health figures show.

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