World

Spain PM declares national state of emergency over COVID-19

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a second nationwide state of emergency in hopes of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Government will impose nightly nationwide curfew, except in the Canary Islands

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a new state of emergency to make it easier for authorities to take swift action without court approval to stem surging coronavirus infections. (Manu Fernandez/Reuters)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has declared a second nationwide state of emergency in hopes of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

The Socialist leader told the nation in a televised address that the extraordinary measure will go into effect on Sunday.

Sanchez said his government will use the state of emergency to impose an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. nationwide curfew, except in the Canary Islands.

The prime minister said Spain's 19 regional leaders will have authority to set different hours for the curfew as long as they are stricter, close regional borders to travel, and limit gatherings to six people who don't live together.

"The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic," Sanchez said, after meeting with his cabinet.

Wants measures in place until May 

The leader added that he will seek the endorsement of the parliament this week to extend the state of alarm for six months, until May.

Spain's government had declared a state of emergency in March to apply a strict home confinement across the nation, close stores and recruit private industry for the national public health fight. It was lifted in June after reining in the contagion rate and saving hospitals from collapse.

A masked woman walks past a closed bar in Pamplona, Spain on Oct. 22 after the Navarran local government limited all non-essential movement in and out of the region for two weeks. (Vincent West/Reuters)

A separate state of emergency went into effect for two weeks in Madrid to force the capital's reluctant regional leaders to impose travel limits on residents to slow down an outbreak in which new infections were growing exponentially. It lasted until Saturday.

The latest national state of emergency will make it easier for authorities to take swift action, avoiding having to get many of the restrictions approved by a judge. Some judges have rejected efforts to limit movement in certain regions, causing confusion among the public.

Government officials on all levels are reluctant to impose another complete home lockdown and industry shutdown, given the weakened state of Spain's economy, which has plunged into a recession and seen its unemployment rolls skyrocket in recent months.

Spain this week became the second European country, after France, to surpass 1 million officially recorded COVID-19 cases. But Sanchez admitted Friday in a nationally televised address that the true figure could be more than 3 million, due to gaps in testing and other factors.

Spain on Friday reported almost 20,000 new daily cases and 231 more deaths, taking the country's death toll in the pandemic to 34,752.

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