Catalonia’s regional government has asked millions of people to “stay at home” as the area experienced a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
It is not a legal order, but instead a “strong recommendation” intended to control contagion and avoid a full-blown lockdown.
The authorities notified 1,300 new daily cases on Thursday, most of them in Barcelona and the metropolitan area.
Around four million people in the Barcelona metropolitan area have been requested to only leave home for essential reasons, with cinemas, theatres and nightclubs also closing.
Restaurants and bars are now limited to half capacity, a ban on visits to elderly people’s homes has been implemented.
The Catalan government also announced new social distancing measures for 15 days that will limit gatherings to 10 people.
The measures concern the city of Barcelona and its surrounding areas, towns and cities and will initially be in place for two weeks.
Until the measures are finalized, both city and regional authorities agree that the situation in the Catalan capital is worrying. “We have started to have cases in other neighborhoods of Barcelona that are further away from the outbreak zone,” said Jacobo Mendioroz, the head of the Covid-19 monitoring unit in Catalonia.
Israel has reimposed some lockdown measures following a vigorous second surge in the number of coronavirus infections, putting in place stringent weekend shutdowns in which shops, hairdressers and attractions will be closed.
Gyms and fitness studios will also be closed at all times, while restaurants, which opened again in May, will return to takeaways and deliveries only. All indoor gatherings of 10 or more people will be banned.
Tighter restrictions will also be introduced including the closure of stores, beauty salons, museums and tourist attractions on the weekends. Starting later this month, beaches will also be closed to the public on weekends, the government said.
“We are making every effort to avoid a general lockdown,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Thursday evening Cabinet meeting.
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Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that foreign tourists will be allowed to enter the country starting in July.
It came as welcome news for his country’s battered tourism industry which makes up 12 per cent of Spain’s GDP.
“As you know, Spain receives more than 80 million visitors a year. I am announcing that from July, Spain will reopen for foreign tourism in conditions of safety. Foreign tourists can also start planning their holidays in our country. Spain needs tourism, and tourism needs safety in both origin and destination. We will guarantee that tourists will not run any risks, nor will they bring any risk to our country,” Sanchez said.
“The hardest part is over. We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sánchez, adding that “the response of the Spanish people has been formidable.”
However, for anyone arriving in Spain, the currently imposed two-week quarantine has been criticized for hampering the tourism sector.
“We will guarantee that tourists will not run any risks and they will not bring us any risks,” Sánchez said.
The Spanish football league will also resume business, starting behind closed doors from June 8. In July it may open to the public if conditions allow.
Meanwhile, far-right demonstrators who support the Vox party took to the streets of Madrid to protest lockdown restrictions.
Several thousand people gathered Saturday in their cars and on motorbikes in the city center.
“I’m here to ask this government to end it because they are leading us to ruin. As a worker I think they are managing things very badly. Sanchez go home,” one demonstrator said.
It comes after Spain’s parliament allowed Sanchez to extend the state of emergency by 14 days, giving him the authority to restrict people’s movements.
To date, 28,628 people in Spain have died of coronavirus and 234,824 have been infected. The health crisis has also made socioeconomic problems worse. Unemployment rose by 300,000 in March and almost 283,000 in April.