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New virus rules in Madrid as Spain mulls national emergency

New coronavirus restrictions were to take effect in Madrid on Saturday, October 24, as the Spanish government weighed declaring a national state of emergency to allow curfews to be imposed.

Just days after Spain registered more than one million virus cases, the regions – responsible for managing public healthcare – have heaped pressure on the government to give them legal right to impose tighter restrictions.

In practice, that would involve the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declaring a national state of emergency which would enable the regions to impose a curfew – a measure increasingly applied across Europe.

So far, 9 of Spain's 17 autonomous regions have formally requested such a measure, with the government expected to decide at an extraordinary meeting on Sunday, October 25.

Although the government can impose an emergency for up to a fortnight, it would need parliamentary approval to extend it.

Spain used the powers in spring to enforce one of the world's tightest lockdowns, and a similar measure has been in force in Madrid for the past fortnight – although only to impose movement restrictions on the capital and various nearby towns.

That measure draws to a close at 4:47 pm (1447 GMT) on Saturday when new restrictions drawn up by the regional authorities will come into force.

Central to the new rules is a ban on all gatherings, in public and private, of people who don't live in the same household between midnight and 6:00 am.

Bars and restaurants must now close at midnight, compared with 11:00 pm under the state of emergency, and their indoor seating capacity will remain fixed at 50 percent.

Elsewhere, the Castilla and Leon region announced its own curfew without waiting for a government declaration, banning movement between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, with similar measures planned in the eastern region of Valencia and the southern city of Granada.

On Wednesday, October 22, Spain became the 6th country in the world to pass a million confirmed cases and the first within the European Union, although on Friday, October 23, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the "real number" was more than 3 times higher.

The latest figures show the virus has claimed nearly 35,000 lives in Spain and infected 1,046,132 people, although antibody tests suggest a figure of more than 3 million. – Rappler.com