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Spain tightens restrictions to stem spike in Covid-19 cases

Several people walk along the beach wearing face masks, as the regional government of the Canary Islands forbids smoking without maintaining a safe distance and imposes a mandatory rule to wear protective masks in open public spaces, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria, Spain, August 14, 2020. REUTERS/Borja Suarez

Spanish authorities ordered the closure of nightclubs, banned drinking in outdoor public areas and smoking, whenever keeping a safe distance from people is impossible, among other measures imposed on Friday to try to stem a coronavirus resurgence.

Infections have spiked in recent days following the end of Spain's tough lockdown seven weeks ago.

Thursday's almost 3,000 new cases brought the cumulative total to 337,334, the highest number in Western Europe.
Bars and restaurants will also have to close by 1 a.m. as part of the new restrictions, Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference.

He also advised against gatherings of more than 10 people and specifically warned young people not to gather outside to drink alcohol, a popular practice called "botellones.”

"We cannot afford not to be disciplined," Mr Illa said.

"We cannot ignore the virus circulating among us."

Some regions, such as Galicia and the Canary Islands, had already taken measures to curb smoking in public areas earlier this week.

The increase in infections has led to worries the country could return to the grim situation it experienced in early April when the daily Covid-19 death toll approached 1,000, but Mr Illa played down such concerns.

Official data shows 70 people have died over the past week, bringing Spain's total coronavirus death toll to 28,605.

"The situation is not comparable with March and April," the minister said.

He said more young people were now becoming infected, many of them showing no symptoms, and patients in general were getting less severely ill. (Reuters)

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