Spain orders nationwide curfew to halt worsening epidemic

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Spain declared a second nationwide state of emergency on Sunday and ordered a nationwide nighttime curfew in hopes of stemming a resurgence of coronavirus infections, said Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

The socialist leader told the nation in a televised speech that the extraordinary measure would take effect on Sunday evening.

Sánchez said his government was using the state of emergency to impose a national curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., except in the Canary Islands.

Spain’s 19 regional leaders will have the power to set different times for the curfew as long as they are stricter, close regional borders for travel and limit gatherings to six people who do not live together, the prime minister said .

“The reality is that Europe and Spain are in a second wave of the pandemic,” Sánchez said after meeting with his cabinet.

The leader added that he would ask parliament this week to extend the state of emergency for six months, until May.

Sánchez’s government said on Saturday evening that a majority of Spain’s regional leaders had agreed to a new state of emergency and that Sunday’s meeting was to consider the conditions.

The state of emergency gives the national government extraordinary powers, including the ability to temporarily restrict fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution, such as the right to free movement.

The Spanish government has already declared two states of emergency during the pandemic. The first was declared in March to enforce strict home lockdown across the country, shut down shops and recruit private industry to the national fight for public health. It was lifted in June after ruling the rate of contagion and saving hospitals from collapse.

The second went into effect for two weeks in Madrid to force reluctant regional leaders in the capital to impose travel limits on residents in a bid to slow an outbreak in which new infections were growing exponentially. This lasted until Saturday.

Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa said his agency and regional health officials were studying how to enforce nighttime curfews, perhaps like the 9 p.m. curfew already in place in major cities across France.

The state of emergency would make it easier for authorities to take swift action, avoiding having to have most restrictions approved by a judge. Some judges have rejected efforts to limit travel in certain areas, causing confusion among the public.

Government officials at all levels were reluctant to impose another full home foreclosure and industry shutdown, given the weakened state of Spain’s economy, which plunged into a recession and saw its rates fall. unemployment has skyrocketed in recent months.

Spain this week became the first European country to exceed one million officially recorded COVID-19 cases. But Sánchez admitted in a nationwide television address on Friday that the actual figure could be over 3 million, due to shortcomings in testing and other factors.

Spain reported nearly 20,000 new daily cases and 231 additional deaths on Friday, bringing the country’s death toll from the pandemic to 34,752.

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Follow the AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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