Spain's regions tighten COVID-19 measures as 1 million case milestone looms

Nathan Allen
·2-min read
An ambulance worker wearing a full personal protective equipment (PPE) is disinfected by a collage in Leganes
An ambulance worker wearing a full personal protective equipment (PPE) is disinfected by a collage in Leganes

By Nathan Allen

MADRID (Reuters) - Several Spanish regions toughened their coronavirus restrictions on Monday, seeking to curb a second wave of contagion that looks set to drive the country with Western Europe's highest case load above one million infections this week.

Authorities in the northern region of Castile and Leon announced they would seal off the city of Burgos and nearby Aranda de Duero to all but essential travel from Tuesday night after infection rates in the area surpassed 500 cases per 100,000 people.

"We are in circumstances similar to those of March or April," Burgos Mayor Daniel de la Rosa told state broadcaster TVE, recalling the beginning of the pandemic, when many Spaniards were confined to their homes to stop the spread.

Aragon, which was at the centre of several outbreaks linked to migrant agricultural workers over summer, introduced capacity limits at bars and restaurants and banned the sale of alcohol in shops between 10 pm and 8 am.

Regional health chief Sira Repolles said she was "very close" to imposing restrictions on movement in the regional capital Zaragoza.

And Catalonia, which last week ordered a 15-day shutdown of bars and restaurants, told 24-hour businesses they must shut at 10 p.m. and cannot reopen until 7 a.m.

Spain's decentralised political system leaves the handling of the pandemic largely up to the regions, although the central government can intervene, as it did on Oct. 9 by declaring a state of emergency in Madrid to reimpose a partial lockdown on several million people in and around the capital.

Despite the increasingly severe clampdown, Spain has added nearly 38,000 cases since Friday, bringing the nationwide total up to 974,449. The death toll jumped by 217 to 33,992.

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon warned the daily infection rate was increasing after a brief period of stability last week.

"It's likely that in winter if we don't take great care with precautionary measures the infection rate will increase again," he told a news conference.

Neighbouring France has nearly 900,000 cases and could also surpass 1 million this week.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Peter Graff and Mark Potter)