By Joan Faus
BARCELONA (Reuters) - The Spanish northeastern region of Catalonia, which has the highest coronavirus incidence rate in the country, said on Wednesday it would impose a night curfew in 158 cities and towns as infections have soared especially among young people.
The curfew, which needs t o be authorized by a court, would take place between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. for a seven-day period in areas with over 5,000 inhabitants with a high incidence rate, including tourism hotspots Barcelona, Sitges, Salou and Lloret de Mar.
"The situation is very delicate, extremely fragile ... it is a necessary measure to try to ease the tension suffered by the health system," Catalonia's regional head of government Pere Aragones said in a televised address, adding that he hoped the curfew would come into force this weekend.
Spain, which lifted a nationwide curfew in early May, reported on Wednesday an increase of 26,390 cases compared to Tuesday, while the nationwide 14-day infection rate reached nearly 470 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, up from 437 cases a day earlier.
Among 20- to 29-year-olds, that figure was 1,509 per 100,000, health ministry data showed.
In an effort to counter the spiralling cases, the Valencia region reimposed a night curfew on more than 30 towns on Monday and the northern region of Cantabria said it would seek court approval to introduce a curfew in 53 towns.
Still, a local court rejected a similar request from the touristic Canary Islands on Wednesday.
Regional authorities responsible for the COVID-19 response need court authorisation or a government decree for strict measures including lockdowns, travel bans and curfews.
Catalonia's top court on Wednesday backed new restrictions announced by the regional government earlier this week, including capping social gatherings at 10 people.
The increase in cases has led to an uptick in hospitalisations across the country although the occupancy rate remains lower than in prior waves of the pandemic.
In Catalonia, 77% of people in intensive care had not been vaccinated, but health officials had no information on how many of those had declined to get the shot.
Around 84% of current infections were caused by the more contagious Delta variant, Catalan officials said.
(Reporting by Joan Faus; additional reporting by Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Jesus Aguado in Madrid; Editing by Sandra Maler)