Spain’s Catalonia will reimpose a night-time curfew starting Christmas Eve to fight a record spike in Covid-19 infections after a court on Thursday approved the measure in the northeastern region.
It is the first Spanish region to reinstate a nightly curfew in response to surging infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Catalonia’s regional government earlier this month asked the courts to approve a nightly curfew between 1:00 am and 6:00 am in areas where infection rates surpass 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a criteria met by virtually the entire region.
It also sought permission to close nightclubs, cap indoor restaurant capacity at 50 percent, and limit gyms and theatres to 70 percent capacity to try to curb infections over the holidays.
The measures will start on Friday and will last 15 days, affecting most New Year’s celebrations.
The court said the measures were “proportional” and had struck a balance between “a limited restriction of rights” and the “protection of individual and community heath”.
Spain has around 80 percent of its population of 47 million people vaccinated — one of the highest rates in the world.
Until recently, it had avoided the surge in infections seen elsewhere in Europe which led to tighter rules.
But the arrival of the Omicron variant of the virus has fuelled infections, with a record of just over 60,000 new cases recorded on Wednesday, even if hospital admissions and ICU occupancy remain lower compared to previous Covid-19 waves.
“Omicron has changed the panorama. We must reintroduce measures which we don’t like but which are necessary,” the head of Catalonia’s regional government, Pere Aragones, said Wednesday.
Omicron accounted for around half of total Covid-19 infections in Spain in the week ending on December 12, having shot up from just 3.0 percent the week before, according to health ministry data.
Catalonia has been especially hard-hit by the latest wave of infections, with around 30 percent of its intensive care unit beds occupied by Covid patients, twice the national average.
The region of around 7.7 million people on the border with France and Barcelona as capital imposed a nightly 1-6 am curfew in mid-July in most municipalities due to rising infections.
A court ordered it lifted the following month after infections dropped, arguing it was no longer justified.
Spain’s central government imposed a nationwide nightly curfew in October 2020. It was lifted in May 2021.