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Spain braces for national emergency to allow curfews

Spain has become the first country in the EU to register more than one million cases.

Image: Shutterstock/dimbar76

SPAIN’S CABINET IS to hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow morning to discuss declaring a national state of emergency, a government statement has said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “has called an extraordinary cabinet meeting at 10am (9am GMT) to study the conditions for a new state of emergency,” it said.

The statement said that the proposal had been “positively welcomed by most of Spain’s autonomous communities, who had requested it”.

The measure would give Spain’s 17 autonomous regions the legal tools to impose tougher restrictions, including curfews, on citizens living within their respective areas in order to slow the spread of the virus. 

The meeting comes just days after Spain registered more than one million virus cases, becoming the sixth country in the world to pass the grim milestone — and the first in the European Union. 

So far, nine of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions have formally requested that the government declare a national state of emergency which would enable them to impose a curfew — a measure increasingly applied across Europe.

Spain used such powers in the spring to enforce one of the world’s tightest lockdowns, and a similar measure has been in force in Madrid for the past fortnight — although only to impose movement restrictions on the capital and various nearby towns.

That measure ended just before 3pm GMT when new regional restrictions came into force, including a ban on all gatherings, in public and private, of people who don’t live in the same household between midnight and 6am.

“They probably should have done this a long time ago or taken other steps like restricting the number of people taking public transport or going to work,” 22-year-old student Patricia Vazquez told AFPTV. 

“In Spain, the restrictions are different in each region. In Madrid, if you look at how the infections are evolving, it seems like they’re not taking the necessary steps,” agreed Eduardo Debiasi, 48, who works in marketing and said more should be done. 

Elsewhere, Castilla and Leon announced its own curfew without waiting for a government declaration, banning movement between 10pm and 6am, while Valencia is to bring in a similar ban tomorrow.

Catalonia also said it would implement a curfew as soon as a national emergency was declared and admitted the option of a new stay-at-home order was also under consideration.

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Although the government can impose an emergency for up to a fortnight, it would need parliamentary approval to extend it — not a given for a the leftwing coalition.

So far, none of the regions run by the rightwing opposition Popular Party (PP) have requested a national emergency, mirroring the party’s ongoing bitter standoff with the Sanchez government over its handling of the pandemic. 

But for now, the government seems to have secured enough support to push through any future extension without relying on the PP, with backing from the centre-right Ciudadanos and Basque and Catalan separatist parties — together accounting for 37 seats.

The latest figures show the virus has claimed nearly 35,000 lives in Spain and infected at least 1,046,132 people.

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AFP

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