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After surge in COVID-19 cases, Spain reinstates restrictions

News Agencies | Updated on: 25 July 2020, 8:34 IST

Spain is witnessing a new surge in virus">coronavirus infections with nearly a thousand cases daily, a month after lifting the pandemic lockdown.

The country is reinstating both voluntary guidelines and mandatory restrictions that it had lifted on June 21, The Washington Post reported.

Spain on Wednesday reported over 224 outbreaks and 2,622 coronavirus cases. According to a report in Washington Post, the new surge is attributed primarily to seasonal farmworkers, people attending family get-togethers and nightclub partyers.

On Thursday, the health ministry reported an additional 971 cases.

"The majority are related to fruit collection and also to the spaces where measures to avoid contact are relaxed," Spain Health Minister Salvador Illa told parliament. "We have to call on citizens to not lose respect for the virus -- not to be afraid of it, but not to lose respect for it either."

The government of Spain lifted all restrictions put in place to combat coronavirus on June 21 and declared 'a new normal'. The coronavirus pandemic till then had killed 24,000 people and infected more than 2,70,166.

Countries around the world are witnessing the second surge of coronavirus. The resurgence could threaten the economic bounce Spain was hoping to get from vacationers eager for summer fun.

The surge in cases has been greatest in the northeastern region of Catalonia with more than 7,953 new confirmed cases since July 10.

Spain's National Epidemiological Survey has predicted that the rate of increase more than doubled in the past three weeks.

Meanwhile, the Catalan government reverted to pre-June 21 confinement rules in Barcelona and a dozen other municipalities in the metropolitan area, as well as in Figueras, Vilafant, La Noguera and Lleida.

Authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to limit indoor occupancy to 50 per cent, reduced sports to fewer than 10 people, closed night clubs and gyms and blocked some cultural activities.

The epidemiologist in charge of the region's biggest hospital warned in an interview last week with the Spanish daily El Pais that the situation in the agricultural hub of Lleida, located about 100 miles west of Barcelona, "had clearly gotten out of hand."

"Nobody foresaw that there would be a number of people coming from abroad to pick fruit in unfavourable conditions and that they might be infected," said epidemiologist Magda Campins of Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona. "And when the infections began to be detected, it was hard to keep tabs on the cases and their contacts because some of them, although they should have been in isolation, got away because they needed to earn money."

Catalonia's Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Family is using a hotel in Lleida to quarantine fruit workers who test positive for COVID-19 but are unable to isolate at home.

In the capital of Madrid, which was the epicentre during the pandemic's first wave in the spring, authorities reported 710 new cases in the past week. The use of face masks is widespread, but the region has shied away from making them mandatory in public.

Madrid's regional health secretary, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, defended that position while citing an uptick in infections in the under-40 age group. He told young people not to let down their guard.

"We can't take even one step backwards. Young people have to be aware of the responsibility they have," Ruiz Escudero said in a news conference Thursday. "I ask them to use the face mask and to maintain a safe distance."


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First published: 25 July 2020, 8:32 IST