As COVID-19 spreads beyond the control of contact tracers in the Barcelona metropolitan area, the Catalan government on Friday asked residents to stay home whenever possible.
It is not a legal order, but instead a “strong recommendation” intended to control contagion and avoid a full-blown lockdown.
“People going to the beach is something we can avoid, that we should avoid. We are asking people to stay home, for them to go out and work or to buy things only when it’s necessary and when they do so, to stay within their neighborhood or city,” said Alba Verges, the head of Catalonia’s Health Services, in a news conference.
The Catalan government also announced new social distancing measures for 15 days that will limit gatherings to 10 people, reduce the maximum capacity of places like bars and restaurants and stop visits to nursing homes.
Authorities say the new restrictions will come into effect once the legislation is published, which should be within the next day.
The affected area is home to around 4 million people.
The city of Barcelona saw COVID-19 cases triple over the last week.
“We are detecting an increase in hospitalizations. We have to act,” said Verges, adding that if these measures do not work, “tougher measures” will be enacted.
According to Verges, many contagions have come from social gatherings and she warned people to avoid risky situations like nightclubs.
On Friday, regional authorities in Cordoba, Andalusia confirmed an outbreak at a nightclub where 400 people attended.
So far, the northeastern regions of Catalonia and Aragon have been the worst affected in post-lockdown Spain but outbreaks have emerged across the country.
Earlier this week, local authorities in Magaluf, a tourist destination popular with British youth, ordered a closure of bars after a video emerged showing disorderly behavior that risked amplifying the spread of the virus.
“We don’t want uncivil visitors on our islands, I hope they don’t come,” said Iago Negueruela, the tourism minister of the Balearic Islands, in a news conference.
This summer, Spain is walking a fine line between salvaging the economically important summer tourism season and avoiding COVID-19 contagions and deaths.
After having been a success story in controlling the outbreak after a devastating spike this spring, cases have been creeping up consistently in Spain since internal mobility and borders opened in late June.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry reported more than 1,300 new cases in one day – the highest one-day jump in nearly two months.
Deaths remain stable for now, with nine reported over the last week. In total, 28,416 people have died from COVID-19 in Spain.
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