Spain declares six month state of emergency including overnight curfew

People in mainland Spain will be banned from being out on the streets overnight as the country goes into a six month state of emergency.

The curfew will include limited exceptions, such as commuting to work or caring for family members.

It comes into effect this evening and means people cannot be out and about between 11pm and 6am.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in an address to the nation that the cabinet had agreed the move this morning.

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He said: ‘The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic. The situation we are living in is extreme.’

The curfew does not apply to the Canary Islands.

The leaders of Spain’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities will have the authority to set different hours for the curfew, but only if they are stricter.

They will also be able to close regional borders to travel, and limit gatherings to six people who do not live together, the prime minister said.

The curfew follows the example of neighbouring France, where the government ordered a 9pm to 6am curfew for major cities and large swathes of the country this week.

Health officials have been targeting nightlife as one of the main sources for the latest revival of infections.

Mr Sanchez said the initial state of emergency will last a fortnight, and he will ask Parliament’s lower house this week to extend the state of emergency until May.

As dictated by the constitution, a state of emergency can last no longer than two weeks without the endorsement of the Congress of Deputies.

Spain’s second nationwide emergency of the pandemic is not as restrictive as the mandatory home confinement Mr Sanchez ordered in March and lasted for six weeks before being gradually relaxed as the number of new confirmed cases fell.

‘There is no home confinement in this state of emergency but the more we stay at home, the safer we will be,’ he said.

‘Everyone knows what they have to do.’

Authorities want to avoid a second complete shutdown of the country of 47 million to avoid dealing another heavy blow to an economy.

But with the infection rate gaining steam ever since it started rising again in August, health experts have clamoured for action at national level, arguing the crisis requires more than a patchwork of regional measures.

Several regional leaders, who run Spain’s decentralised healthcare system, had asked in recent days for the national government to declare a national state of emergency.

The state of emergency makes it easier for authorities to take swift action without having to get many types of public health restrictions approved by a judge.

Some judges have rejected efforts to limit people’s movements in certain regions, causing confusion among the public.

Spain this week became the first European country to pass one million officially recorded Covid-19 cases.

But Mr Sanchez admitted on Friday in a nationally televised address that the true figure could be more than three million due to gaps in testing and other factors.

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