Spain mulls curfews to contain 'out-of-control' pandemic

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s health minister described a second wave of the coronavirus sweeping the county as “out of control” on Thursday as the government considered whether to follow France and other European countries in imposing curfews.

A day earlier Spain became the first Western European country to record 1 million COVID-19 cases. The country’s death toll stands at 34,366 people.

“Not to take these measures would be irresponsible,” said Francisco Igea, deputy leader of the Castilla and Leon region, which formally requested the central government to decide on a curfew.

“The lives of tens of thousands of people are at stake,” he told a news conference.

Castilla la Mancha’s health chief will request a nationwide curfew at a video meeting between Health Minister Salvador Illa and Spanish regions later on Thursday, a source with the regional government said.

The Valencia region was also set to request curfew measures, El Pais newspaper reported, but a health ministry source said it was not yet clear if enough regions would take that stance for a decision to be made on Thursday.

With a two-week partial lockdown of Madrid and surrounding cities coming to an end on Saturday and the contagion rates growing across much of Spain, more needs to be done, Minister Illa said, calling earlier on Thursday for “drastic” measures.

Between March and June, Spaniards lived under severe restrictions, with many virtually confined to their homes, but life had begun to return to normal in most regions as the first wave of the pandemic eased.

But Illa told Onda Cero radio: “The second wave is a reality. In many areas of our country, the epidemic is out of control.”

“The horizon we have been discussing with technicians from the ministry and European colleagues is of five to six very hard months.”

While daily deaths have been hovering around 100 – a far cry from the peak of nearly 900 registered in late March – hospital admissions have jumped 20% in two weeks, triggering warnings that some non-urgent surgeries may need to be postponed.

Still, in a rare instance of good news for Spain’s battered economy, Germany lifted a warning against travel to the tourism-dependent Canary Islands.

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