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Thousands protest new virus restrictions in Spain

Hundreds of protesters marched through Barcelona on Saturday voicing their opposition against new holiday season restrictions in Catalonia.

The region had reinstated serious limitations which came into effect on Christmas Eve in a bid to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

Catalonia's hospitals are currently caring for one in four of everyone hospitalised in Spain with COVID-19.

During the Christmas Day protest, which headed towards Sant Jaume Square, demonstrators held signs against mandatory vaccines and sanitary passports.

Among the new measures which will be in effect until at least 7 January are a nightly curfew from 1-6 a.m., a limit of 10 people per social gathering, the closure of nightclubs, and capping restaurants at 50% of indoor seating and stores, gyms and theatres at 70% capacity.

Spain had hoped for a relaxed festive Christmas, since 80% of its population of 47 million were vaccinated — including 90% of those over 12 — and face masks are widely used.

But the incredibly fast spread of the omicron variant is starting to put pressure on Spanish hospitals, even though experts agree that being vaccinated still greatly reduces the risk of falling seriously ill.