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Catalonia lifts some COVID-19 restrictions as infections fall

by Reuters
Thursday, 4 February 2021 18:48 GMT

(Adds latest data)

By Joan Faus

BARCELONA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Catalonia will remove some lockdown restrictions from next week, the government said on Thursday, allowing gyms to reopen and people to move outside their municipalities after infections edged lower in the region and across Spain.

"We believe we are leaving behind the maximum peak of the third wave," Catalan health secretary general Marc Ramentol told a news conference.

At a national level the 14-day incidence of the virus retreated to 783 cases per 100,000 people, dropping below 800 cases for the first time in two weeks.

Madrid has already announced some easing of lockdown restrictions, starting from Friday.

But Spain still has the world's third-highest number of daily infections, according to a Reuters tally, and stress on the health system remains high.

A total of 29,960 new cases were recorded by the country on Thursday bringing the total above 2.9 million, while the death toll climbed by 432 to 60,802.

"This is a still a very high-pressure situation for our society," Spain's Health Emergency Chief Fernando Simon told a news conference. "We have at least six regions with ICU (intensive care units) occupancy above 50 percent."

He warned the situation would persist into at least the beginning of next week.

In Catalonia, where the incidence is below 500 cases per 100,000 people, bars and restaurants from Monday will be able to serve customers for an extra hour at breakfast and lunch but will be limited to offering take-away services for the rest of the day.

A lockdown that stopped people from leaving their municipalities except for work or health reasons, will be eased slightly, but many other restrictions in place since early January will remain.

Large shops and malls will remain closed while most non-essential small shops will only be allowed to open from Monday to Friday. A 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will remain in place. (Reporting by Joan Faus in Barcelona, and Jesús Aguado and Nathan Allen in Marid; Editing by Ingrid Melander, Giles Elgood and Susan Fenton)

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