Spain edges toward state of alarm as regions request curfew powers

Madrid, Oct 24 (efe-epa).- Spain’s government looks set to trigger a national state of alarm as a growing number of regions request the powers to apply night-time curfews as Covid-19 figures continued to jump daily amid a second wave of the virus.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who spent the morning meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican, is expected to call an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday, a government source told Efe, adding, however, that the plan had not been officially announced.

The emergency mechanism was triggered in mid-March when the government ordered people across the country to remain at home except for essentials trips to the shop, pharmacy or the GP.

It expired in June after support for the measure in parliament, and among the country’s regional leaders, waned.

One of the issues for Sánchez’s minority government, a coalition between his Socialist Party and leftist Unidas Podemos, is that the measure comes up for parliamentary review every two weeks and requires a majority vote from MPs to extend it.

A state of alarm imposed in the region of Madrid, which effectively sealed off the capital and some of its badly-affected suburbs, expired on Saturday afternoon as the government decided against putting it to a vote in parliament.

The regional Madrid government, which has been heavily critical of Sánchez’s central government, will replace the state of alarm with a new set of rules prohibiting social gatherings between midnight and 6 am and neighborhood lockdowns in areas with high infection rates.

But there is a growing list of Spanish regions, including Catalonia, the Basque Country and Castilla La Mancha, urging the government to invoke a state of alarm, which would legally underpin the curfew measures they want to introduce.

As of Saturday, none of the conservative-run regions had asked for the state of alarm.

Regional officials in Valencia said they would introduce a nightly curfew until December starting Saturday.

Local leader Ximo Puig said the region would not wait for a verdict from the national government.

“It’s not the time for a debate, it’s time for solutions,” he said.

The prime minister addressed the nation in a televised speech on Friday and urged citizens to cooperate to help confront the new waves of coronavirus, but fell short of announcing concrete measures.

Spain’s two-week incidence rate was around 348 cases per 100,000. Sánchez wants to bring this down to 25 per 100,000.

“The next few weeks and months are going to be hard. Very hard,” he said.

Spain has recorded over one million Covid-19 infections and 34,700 deaths since the pandemic began. EFE-EPA


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