Around 160,000 people in the Spanish region of Catalonia came back to confinement on Wednesday as the authorities struggled to control a fresh rise in the coronavirus or COVID-19 in the area, just weeks following a countrywide lockdown was lifted.

A judge finally gave approval to the region's government's stay-at-home order for the residents of the city of Lleida and six closeby towns on Tuesday night after many days of legal wrangling and political tensions about the issue.

COVID-19 in Spain

Spain
Spain Pixabay

Under the new rules, people may only leave their homes for essential activities like working or buying supplies, while hotels, restaurants, and bars will close except for food pick-up or delivery. Regional authorities have also encouraged the residents of three neighborhoods in L'Hospitalet, a Barcelona suburb that is home to around 260,000, to stay home, but that's not mandatory confinement. Another judge refused to rubber-stamp a proposed restriction on gatherings of more than 10 people there.

After more than 28,000 deaths from the pandemic, Spain's government ended a nationwide lockdown on June 21, considering it had dealt with the worst of the virus as the number of contagions had ground to a near halt. But since then, more than 170 clusters have sprung up around Spain, prompting regional authorities to impose a patchwork of local restrictions, confusing locals and angering businesses.

While Catalonia, which is Spain's second-most populous region, is the first to return its citizens to home confinement, parts of Galicia have been sealed off to visitors and the Basque town of Ordizia imposed a curfew to tackle their own outbreaks. And, following Catalonia's lead, a string of regions introduced compulsory mask use at all times, regardless of whether social-distancing can be guaranteed. In the southern Andalusia region, the restriction even applies to beachgoers.

(With agency inputs)