Spain's Catalonia region orders bars and restaurants to shutdown for 15 days

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The Spanish region of Catalonia, which includes the city of Barcelona, ordered bars and restaurants to close for 15 days from Thursday night onwards and limited the numbers of people allowed in shops to try to curb a surge in coronavirus cases.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask walks past empty terraces of bars at Plaza Reial (Reial Square), after Catalonia's regional authorities announced restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona, Spain August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

With close to 900,000 registered cases and more than 33,000 deaths, Spain has become the pandemic’s hotspot in Western Europe. The capital Madrid and nearby suburbs were put on partial lockdown last week.

Bars and restaurants in Catalonia will only be allowed to offer take-away services and delivery, acting regional chief Pere Aragones told reporters on Wednesday.

“We need to act today to avoid a total lockdown in the coming weeks ... The situation is very worrying,” Aragones said, urging citizens to limit movements outside the home and to avoid unnecessary social contact.

The measures will need to be authorized by a court, Aragones said, adding that he was confident they would secure legal backing. Restaurant associations had said earlier on Wednesday they would file a lawsuit against any closure.

Barcelona bar owner Gladys Roda said, “I want to trust our scientists, not politicians, and I think that if they say that things should be closed...they have their reasons.”

But she added, that an economic level this could be ruinous.

In addition to the measures affecting hospitality, non-professional sport competitions will be suspended and the region’s gyms will only be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

Casinos and bingo halls will be closed, shops and large shopping centers will see capacity limited to 30%, and cultural events will only be allowed to run at 50% capacity and must finish by 11 p.m.

The local government will disburse 40 million euros in aid to bars and restaurants.

Reporting by Joan Faus, additional reporting to Luis Felipe Castilleja; Editing by Inti Landauro and Alexandra Hudson