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Spain announces new state of emergency as Covid-19 infections soar

A woman rides a scooter past a closed hotel at Barrio Gotico (Gothic Quarter), after the government imposed new restrictions in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19 in Barcelona. Photo by REUTERS/Nacho Doce

By Belén Carreño and Jessica Jones

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a new state of emergency on Sunday in an effort to curb soaring coronavirus infections, imposing local nighttime curfews and banning travel between regions in certain cases.

The measures go into force from Sunday night and will require all regions except the Canary Islands to impose a nighttime curfew and limit the number of people allowed to meet to six.

For now at least, they are not expected to impact on border fluidity between Gibraltar and Spain, although anybody travelling to Spain will have to adhere to the new rules in that country including limitations on nighttime movement.

"We are living in an extreme situation ... it is the most serious health crisis in the last century," Mr Sanchez told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

Spain imposed one of the toughest lockdowns early on in the pandemic and then relaxed curbs over the summer.

But like many other European countries it has seen a second wave hit in recent weeks, and now has one of the highest numbers of infections in Western Europe. Total cases rose to 1,046,132 on Friday, while the death toll is nearing 35,000.

The state of emergency will need parliamentary approval to last beyond 15 days. Sanchez asked for parliament to approve its extension up to May 9.

A growing number of regions had been calling on the government to implement the measure.

Catalonia was one of the first regions on Sunday to use the new legislation to impose a curfew, which will take effect at 10 p.m. on Sunday. Establishments open to the public will have to close at 9 p.m.

The Madrid region had already limited the number of people who could meet inside homes to six, as well as banning the mixing of different households overnight.

The decree will serve as a legal framework to implement a new warning system of levels, similar to the ones already applied in countries such as Germany and France.

According to the level of risk, travelling between regions could be banned if a regions decides, except for justified reasons such as working. Movement could also be restricted within regions in localised lockdowns.

Most of the regions are already above the parameters to be considered at the highest level of risk.

On Sunday, the Gibraltar Government asked the public to familiarise themselves with the new Spanish rules, in particular the new rules on curfew as applied by the Junta de Andalucia.

“These restrictions on movement [within Spain] can affect those on shift work etc, so they will need proper documentation,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place told the Chronicle.

Chronicle staff contributed reporting for this article.