Efforts to curb surge in Covid-19 outbreaks in northern Spain focus on young people

Young people on the seafront in Barcelona where measures are getting tougher.
Young people on the seafront in Barcelona where measures are getting tougher. / EFE
  • Parts of Barcelona and Zaragoza have community transmission and the authorities are looking at stricter measures, particularly on nightlife and outdoor drinking

Spain continued to see a surge in local outbreaks this week, with the focus on Aragón and Catalonia. Here, in these two northern regions with over 50 active outbreaks, local authorities were increasingly looking for ways to try to stem the spread of infection.

Just as last week, the Aragón region headed the list of new cases this week. While outbreaks among the agricultural workers of the Aragonese province of Huesca appeared to be under control, in the regional capital, Zaragoza, the spread appeared out of control in the latter part of this week.

In Catalonia, with outbreaks in the inland province of Lleida in farming areas seemingly subsiding, the spread in and around Barcelona was of particular concern.

Both national and regional governments said this week that there had been a shift from new infections in the workplace to people catching Covid-19 in their free time, such as at family gatherings or young people meeting up in the evening in groups.

The president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, said on Wednesday that his government was considering closing all nightlife and introducing measures to stop young people gathering to drink in streets and squares.

Pleas go ignored

In contrast to Lleida, people in and around Barcelona are ignoring pleas from their regional government to stay indoors and limit groups to 10. The city was faced with 30 localised outbreaks, especially in the southern part of the metropolitan area.

“We cannot close the country,” said Torra, while stressing the situation was significantly more controlled compared to March, with far fewer hospital admissions.

However, ministers and officials in Catalonia were increasingly admitting this week that if residents did not voluntarily isolate, there was little more in their power to do other than ask central government to take “extraordinary measures”, akin to returning to a state of alarm.

Barcelona council reduced the capacity of the city’s beaches this week by a further 15 per cent.

The northern region of Navarra also showed worrying signs this week, moving into second place in new daily cases nationally on Wednesday after Aragón. The local government there has restricted opening times on night bars. One area of Navarra was also moved back to the equivalent of Phase Two of lockdown and tests on local youngsters between 17 and 28 increased.

The Madrid region, despite fewer cases since the easing of lockdown, moved into third place in the number of new reported cases by midweek, after Navarra and ahead of Catalonia.