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Spain's Catalonia to keep bars, restaurants shut another ten days to curb COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask rides her skateboard accompanied with her dog on a street, after Catalonia's government imposed new restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Barcelona, Spain October 29, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Restaurants, bars and shopping malls will remain closed in Catalonia for at least another ten days to rein in the COVID-19 pandemic, regional officials said on Thursday.

Unlike most other Western European countries, Spain has held off on ordering a nationwide confinement to control its second wave of infection, instead letting regional authorities implement their own policies.

This has led to a patchwork of measures, with Catalonia’s strictest approach contrasting with the Madrid region’s decision to leave bars and restaurants open. Catalonia has Spain’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases after Madrid.

“We know that these are very difficult and complicated measures, that we are asking for very hard sacrifices from sectors of our economy and society but from the point view of health ... we need these 10 days,” said Catalan health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon.

Beauty salons will be allowed to open again, officials said, adding that the regional administration planned a gradual return to open-air activities on the terraces of bars and restaurants from Nov. 23.

Meanwhile, authorities in Castille and Leon, to the north of Madrid, banned gatherings of more than three people in the province of Burgos after the infection rate there soared.

Despite having the second highest tally of cases in Western Europe at just over 1.4 million, the infection rate has stabilised overall in Spain, prompting some optimism from the government.

“The trend is positive and we have been able to control it without having the lockdown we had in the spring,” Economy Minister Nadia Calvino told an event run by the Financial Times.

“We should be able to see in this fourth quarter that there is a basis for the strong growth that we see for the next year,” she said, referring to the government’s forecast for output to rebound by 7.2% in 2021 after contracting 11.2% this year.

Reporting by Joan Faus and Emma Pinedo; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Bernadette Baum