Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is convening a special Cabinet meeting Thursday to pass a law by decree that makes it mandatory to wear masks outdoors, amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases.
Sánchez announced at a meeting with the leaders of regional governments Wednesday that he was consenting to their appeals to extend mask-wearing rules, his office said. A decree-law does not require a debate and vote in parliament before taking effect.
He also announced a raft of other measures, including an offer to deploy the armed forces to help the regions step up their vaccination rollout and put military hospital beds at their disposal if they are needed.
Curfew for Spain’s Catalonia and more tests for Madrid
The northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia won court approval for a night curfew on Thursday as Madrid pledged to distribute millions more test kits to tackle the Omicron variant that is driving up infections and overshadowing Christmas.
Spain lifted most restrictions over the summer due to a high vaccination rate that suppressed infection but Omicron’s arrival has sent daily cases soaring to reach a record of more than 72,900 on Thursday.
The concentration of coronavirus detected in wastewater reached the highest level since a monitoring programme began in June 2020, the Environment Ministry said.
Adopting the hardest line since Spain emerged from a state of emergency in May, Catalonia, which surrounds the city of Barcelona, will ban residents from leaving their homes between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. from Thursday night, while other regions took a less stringent approach.
Southern Murcia told non-essential businesses to shut at 1 a.m., severely curtailing revelry in a country where bars and restaurants routinely stay open until the small hours.
Lopez Miras’s administration also banned dancing in nightclubs and limited the size of dinners to 10 people inside and 12 on terraces.