Rising COVID-19 cases push Spain's regions to call for tighter restrictions

MADRID (Reuters) - The northern Spanish region of Castilla and Leon ordered a shutdown of bars and restaurants on Tuesday and demanded tougher measures from the national government to defeat one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.

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

Spain has the second highest caseload in Western Europe after France. It has recorded a total of 1.2 million cases so far and 36,495 deaths, including 18,669 new infections and 238 deaths reported on Tuesday.

Announcing the new restrictions for Castilla and Leon, which come into force on Nov. 6, regional leader Alfonso Fernandez Manueco described the situation as one of “maximum risk,” adding his administration favoured stricter measures but was stymied by Spain’s current legal framework.

Under a six-month state of emergency declared last week, regional authorities have powers to declare curfews and shut down businesses, but they cannot impose home confinement without central government authorisation.

“We demand that the Spanish government assumes its responsibility and, under parliamentary control, decrees the measures required by the situation,” Fernandez said.

Unlike France, Germany and Britain, which have announced full nationwide lockdowns, Spain has adopted a regional response, leading to a patchwork of different regulations.

Castilla and Leon’s announcement came a day after the northwestern Asturias region shut down bars and requested authorisation for a home confinement but was rebuffed by the health ministry.

Wealthy Catalonia, home to top tourist destination Barcelona, has taken a hard-line approach, closing down eateries more than two weeks ago and restricting travel across its borders.

Meanwhile, Madrid’s bars and restaurants, which are only obliged to keep to capacity limits and shut by 11 pm, were full of revellers over a long weekend marking All Saints Day.

Conservative regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso has opted for lighter regulations and said on Tuesday that home confinement was a “last resort.”

Reporting by Nathan Allen and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Mark Potter