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Four million people in Catalonia asked to 'stay at home' amid coronavirus surge

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By Luke Hurst  & Alessio Dell'Anna  with AFP, AP
Police on the Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, earlier in July
Police on the Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, earlier in July   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Catalonia’s regional government has asked millions of people to “stay at home” as the area experienced a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Around four million people in the Barcelona metropolitan area have been requested to only leave home for essential reasons, with cinemas, theatres and nightclubs also closing.

Restaurants and bars are now limited to half capacity, a ban on visits to elderly people’s homes has been implemented, and people can only meet up in groups of up to ten.

Non-essential businesses will have to receive their customers by appointment.

In a statement to the press, spokeswoman for the Catalan regional government, Meritxell Budo, said: “We must go backwards so that we do not have to return to a total lockdown of the population in the coming weeks.”

“If the pandemic continues on this track, we’ll have to take more drastic steps. The end of the state of alarm doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. People must comply with all the measures in place and follow instructions issued by health authorities,” she added.

The measures concern the city of Barcelona and its surrounding areas, towns and cities and will initially be in place for two weeks.

Areas of Catalonia had already been subject to a second lockdown - 160,000 people in Lleida and neighbouring areas were re-confined on Wednesday following a legal stand-off between the regional government and the judiciary.

Catalonia already requires the use of face masks outdoors and in indoor public spaces.

On Saturday, Barcelona police closed down a large area of the city’s beaches after too many sunbathers ignored authorities' request to stay at home.

People were blocked from entering and police told those already on the beach to disperse as they were too standing too close to each other and risked to increase contagions.

Spain is one of Europe’s worst-affected countries, with more than 28,000 deaths from COVID-19 officially declared along with more than 250,000 cases.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
People enjoy the beach in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, July 18, 2020AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti