Spain reports coronavirus spike with highest reported figures since May

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People sunbathe in Magaluf beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Palma de Mallorca, Spain July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo
Spain has opened its doors to tourists, but figures suggest coronavirus cases are rising in the country (REUTERS/Enrique Calvo)

Spain has reported the steepest daily jump in coronavirus infections in more than two months, just as the country welcomes millions of tourists from across the world for its summer season.

Thursday saw 580 new cases registered, up from 390 reported on Wednesday, with the regions of Aragon and Catalonia are leading the increase.

Authorities have urged some four million people in Catalonia, including its capital Barcelona, to stay home, appealing to people to act responsibly as the region battles a growing number of new coronavirus clusters.

The stay-home call stopped short of imposing a mandatory lockdown, but was the strongest measure a region has taken to returning people to home confinement since Spain emerged from a nationwide lockdown last month.

Gatherings of more than ten people have been banned.

Residents of Barcelona, its suburbs and the areas of Segria and Noguera, further away from the city, were urged to shop online and leave their home only to go to work, to visit a doctor or carry other essential activities.

BARCELONA, July 5, 2020  -- People visit the Sagrada Familia basilica on the day of its reopening in Barcelona, Spain, July 4, 2020. One of Spain's most famous landmarks, Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, opened its doors to visitors on Saturday for the first time since Spain was placed under lockdown on March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.     During the first phase of its reopening, access to the building is given only to healthcare workers, police officers, security and social workers and those who work for charity organizations, as well as those who ensured the supply of vital goods and services during the worst time of the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by Ismael Peracaula/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
The Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona reopened on 4 July but may be forced to close again if localised outbreaks of coronavirus cannot be contained. (Ismael Peracaula/Xinhua via Getty)

“We recommend that people don’t move around if it’s not absolutely necessary,” Catalonia’s health chief Alba Verges told a news conference, saying most infections came from gatherings of family or friends.

“It’s very important to respect these measures now, it’s the best way to avoid a lockdown,” Verges said. “No one wants a full home confinement.”

Cultural and sports events will also be limited but museums will remain open in Barcelona, one of Europe’s most visited cities.

Bars and restaurants can keep working, but with a limit of half their usual capacity indoors, and with a 2-metre (6.5- foot) distance between tables outdoors.

More than 170 localised outbreaks have emerged across Spain since it lifted its nationwide lockdown - one of the strictest in Europe - on 21 June.

A recent nationwide survey revealed that one in 20 people in Spain have had coronavirus.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 19: Clergy in PPE attend the celebration of the first mass in the Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia since the beginning of the state of alarm, officiated by Cardinal Juan José Omella on the occasion of the golden and silver wedding anniversary of priests and deacons, on June 19, 2020 in Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain. (Photo by Marc Brugat/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Socially distanced clergy in PPE attended the celebration of the first mass in the Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona at the end of June (Marc Brugat/Europa Press/Getty Images)

Catalonia has become the epicentre of new outbreaks, putting paid to plans of holidays to the region for many British tourists.

Spain’s health ministry said the number of cases confirmed over the past 24 hours in the region were 142, up from 91 the previous day. In the Aragón province in the east, the number of infections jumped to 266 from 160, according to the health ministry.

A Real Madrid fans celebrate front of La Cibeles fountain after Real Madrid won La Liga championship in downtown Madrid, Spain, on July 16, 2020. Real Madrid and local authorities asked the supporters not to celebrate the title around the fountain to avoid a new COVID-19 outbreak. Real Madrid got its 34th Spanish Championship after defeating Villarreal (Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Real Madrid fans celebrated on Thursday after Real Madrid won the La Liga championship. The club and local authorities had asked the supporters not to celebrate in the city, to avoid a new COVID-19 outbreak. (Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Catalan health authority, which counts both confirmed and suspected cases, said the number soared to 1,293 overnight, the highest since at least May 18, when the counting methodology changed.

Barcelona - home to 1.6 million people and one of Europe’s most visited cities - has tripled its number of coronavirus cases from last week.

Authorities have already imposed tighter restrictions in three neighbourhoods of a Barcelona suburb with a population of 260,000.

On Thursday, the culling of almost 100,000 mink at a farm in Aragón was ordered after a farm employee's wife contracted coronavirus in May.

Her husband and six other farm workers have since tested positive for the disease.

Open touristic bars are seen in the corner of Bierstrasse street (Miquel Pellisa street) in El Arenal beach, where authorities on Wednesday closed all commercial activities to prevent the crowding of tourists, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, July 15, 2020. Picture taken July 15, 2020.REUTERS/Enrique Calvo
Tourist bars in Majorca are being closed again after a fresh coronavirus outbreak in Palma de Mallorca on Wednesday (REUTERS/Enrique Calvo)

The mink, bred for their prized fur, were isolated and monitored closely after the workers became infected.

But tests on 13 July showed that 87% of the mink were infected and health authorities ordered for all 92,700 of the animals to be culled.

Along with Madrid and Catalonia, Aragón is one of the virus hotspots in Spain.

More than 18 million British tourists visit Spain each year, accounting for a significant portion of the country’s economy.

The country has registered more than 28,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19, but a stringent lockdown policy brought the spread of the virus under control faster than in many other countries.

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