Spain's Catalonia, Navarre tighten COVID measures as cases rise

·2-min read
Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona
Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The Spanish regions of Catalonia and Navarre will bring in new restrictions on working and public gatherings after worrying rises in COVID-19 cases, authorities said on Sunday.

Josep Maria Argimon, the Catalan health secretary, asked companies to tell employees to work from home for the next 15 days.

"Without establishing measures, we could reach the situation in Madrid in two or three weeks," Argimon told RAC1 radio station.

"But we will not reach the situation in Madrid, because we are going to take mandatory measures that will be announced this week."

Madrid, where a state of emergency was imposed on Friday to halt soaring infection rates, is one of Europe's COVID-19 hotspots.

Catalonia reported 2,360 COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths in the past 24 hours, health authorities said on Sunday.

In Navarre, which has a population of 650,000, regional leader Maria Chivite announced new restrictions after 463 coronavirus cases were reported on Sunday, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

From Tuesday, meetings will be limited to six people, bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m. and their capacity will be limited to 50%, while the capacity in children's parks will cut to 30%.

Madrid's conservative regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the lockdown was "ruining" the capital's economy and was profoundly undemocratic.

"The justice system, the Madrid region, the king and the law are standing in the way of Pedro Sánchez, who’s trying to change this country through the back door," Ayuso told El Mundo newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

A Spanish government spokeswoman declined to comment.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said at a press conference on Saturday: "We will keep on offering a hand to the Madrid regional government so we can work together, but the situation demanded a response and we couldn’t just sit on our hands."

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)