Spain's Catalonia orders reconfinement of Lerida residents


Madrid (AFP)

The government of Spain's Catalonia region on Sunday ordered residents in and around the northeastern town of Lerida to go back into home confinement as cases of coronavirus spiked.

"The people must stay at home," regional health official Alba Verges told a news conference.

The area, with a population of more than 200,000, was already ordered isolated from the rest of the region last weekend.

It marks the first time that Spaniards have been confined to their homes since the hard-hit country exited confinement on June 21.

The move reimposes the strict conditions of its first confinement, which began in mid-March, allowing people in the affected area to leave their homes only to go to work, get medical treatment or purchase food and other necessities.

Gatherings of more than 10 people were also banned in and around Lerida.

Europe, still the most affected continent with 202,399 deaths from 2,828,270 cases, has seen a drastic drop in its daily number of new infections.

However more than 70 new coronavirus clusters have now been identified in Spain, with the area around Lerida concerning the authorities the most.

The authorities have said the fresh outbreaks are linked to the movement of seasonal agricultural workers, who travelled to northern Spain to work on the fruit harvest.

In Catalonia's capital Barcelona, one hospital has recorded a jump in cases from 31 to 107 in the last week, according to the town hall.

Other clusters have been identified in the northwest regions of Galicia and the Basque country, were the country's first regional elections since the onset of the pandemic were held on Sunday.

In Spain, mask-wearing is compulsory in closed public spaces as well as outside when it is not possible to maintain a social distance of one and a half metres.

But Catalonia strengthened its rules on Thursday, ordering masks to be worn even when the safety distance can be respected.

The Balearic archipelago will also strengthen its rules on the wearing of masks from Monday and other regions such as Andalusia and Aragon plan to follow suit.

However in the tourism hotspots of Catalonia and the Balearic islands, swimmers, sunbathers and people taking part in sport are exempt from wearing a mask.