Catalan govt reimposes local lockdown after legal tussle
Catalan municipal police officers ask citizens to wear face masks at Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona. AFP
Following a standoff with the courts, the Catalan regional government on Wednesday told residents to stay home in a virus-hit area in and around the northeastern city of Lerida.
Regional officials issued a similar call in several districts of Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city near Barcelona where virus cases have been on the rise. In the Lerida area, the stay-home order affects around 160,000 people, who are only allowed to leave to go to work, buy food or medication, or to exercise.
The area has already been cut off from the rest of the country since July 4. But the regional government is refusing to use the term lockdown given that the measures are not as restrictive as those imposed months ago by the central government at the height of the country's outbreak.
"People can go for a walk and exercise and all the shops will be open," Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budo said on Tuesday. Moves to reconfine the local population to their homes triggered a legal standoff on Monday when a local court blocked the new lockdown order, prompting the regional government to enact legislative changes.
In the end, the court agreed overnight to allow the measure for 15 days while demanding that the regional authorities provide regular updates on the status of the outbreak.
Catalan authorities are also watching other pockets of infection in this wealthy northeastern region, notably advising that the residents of three districts of Hospitalet de Llobregat -- a city with 260,000 residents -- only leave home for urgent necessities. Spain suffered one of Europe's most deadly outbreaks of the virus which has so far claimed more than 28,400 lives.
With the health ministry saying there are more than 120 active outbreaks across the country, many regions such as Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Andalusia have stepped up precautions. In these areas and others, mask-wearing is now compulsory in public at all times, even if the safety distance can be respected.