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Spain records 2,255 more Covid cases in 24 hours with number of infections now at 319,501

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain have donned facemasks during a mass as part of their tour of the country.

The royal couple were pictured this morning at a mass to mark the Day of Galicia at the church of San Martino Pinario in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

It comes as Spain recorded 2,255 more coronavirus cases in 24 hours and Catalonia shut it’s nightclubs down for two weeks amid fears of a second wave.

The Catalan government went ahead with its threat to close discos across the entire region as the number of cases rose to 319,501 yesterday.

Nightclub owners were told they must shut their doors for the next fortnight.

The move comes as Spanish health officials admitted they could be dealing with a second coronavirus wave.

The regions of Catalonia and Aragon are the two worst-affected areas.

Five areas of Spain have now been put into lockdown to curb the spread of the virus; Catalonia, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Totana and A Marina. 

Meanwhile, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain have been travelling around the country to better understand the impact of the virus. 

Barcelona earlier this week said it was reducing the maximum number of people who could use its beaches at any one time from 38,000 to 32,000 as officials urged sun seekers to avoid weekend peak periods.

Last weekend Barcelona residents were asked to stay at home wherever possible as town hall chiefs tried to encourage voluntary quarantine to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Catalan president Quim Torra admitted earlier this week his government was looking at the possibility of ordering the closure of discos across the region of nearly eight million inhabitants.

The move affects all establishments with disco or music hall licences. 

Respected Catalan daily El Periodico said the closure order also affected late-night pubs, although a tweet from regional health chiefs said simply: ‘The opening to the public of discos, music halls and nightspots licenced to put on shows has been suspended across Catalunya.’

Spanish daily El Pais said the two-week ban, introduced at midnight, also applied to hotels with dance floors laying on musical entertainment.

Bars and restaurants in the areas where the highest number of Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the past few days, including Barcelona city centre and surrounding sleeper towns as well as municipalities in Girona further north including Figueres, have to close by midnight.

French PM Jean Castex has urged the country’s citizens to avoid travelling to Catalonia because of the health situation there.

Josep Maria Argimon, the secretary of Public Health of Catalonia, admitted its health system was facing ‘critical days.’

He added: ‘We’re not in critical days like in March, when our hospital intensive care units were full.

‘Now what’s critical is that people follow all the rules and guidelines to ensure the spread of the virus slows down.’

The Catalan late-night entertainment shutdown follows a path being taken by other regions in Spain, although the Balearic Islands had been the only other one to take the draconian measure ahead of the spike of new cases.

Late-night bars in Murcia have been told they can only serve customers outside who are sat down in places like terraces where social distancing is guaranteed.

In Navarra, which includes the city of Pamplona where the famous Running of the Bulls normally takes place every year, emergency measures are being brought in which will include the closure of nightspots at 2am.

Officials in Madrid also said yesterday they were studying plans to bring in new limitations on the region’s nightlife which would revolve around reductions in the number of people inside and outside bars and clubs at any one time.

A lockdown in the municipality of Totana in Murcia, south east Spain was the result of a Covid-19 outbreak centred on a pub called Dubai.

More than 50 people at the nightspot tested positive for the virus.

Around 30,000 residents are affected by the Totana lockdown, with entry and exit into the municipality banned except in cases of extreme necessity.

Restaurants and bars are only allowed to open outside terrace areas with 50 per cent capacity.

It comes after France told its citizens not to travel to Catalonia. 

Norway has also re-imposed quarantine rules for people arriving from Spain while Britons have been warned that air bridges could be axed at short notice, leaving them vulnerable to two weeks of isolation when they return to the UK. 

Although the UK government kept Spain on its ‘green list’ of countries that do not require quarantines, officials have indicated that this could change without notice if the rise in Spanish cases gets worse. 

Some British holidaymakers are cancelling their trips and TUI has said it will cancel packages to Spain if returning travellers are forced to go into a 14-day quarantine when they return to the UK. 

France and Germany also today announced that all returning travellers will be given a free coronavirus test amid fears that the holiday season is driving a surge in cases on the continent. 

In response to the threat, authorities in the Costa del Sol have ordered people running along the beach to wear face masks. 

People doing sport had previously been exempted from using the face coverings across Spain.

But Mijas Town Hall has now said its Senda Litoral, based around a long boardwalk that connects existing paths and promenades and stretches across most of the municipality’s coastline, will be out of bounds to people practising sport unless they mask up.

The decision was taken after town hall chiefs were told social distancing could not be guaranteed.

Mijas, which lies between Marbella to the west and Fuengirola to the east, is a popular destination for British holidaymakers and home to thousands of expats.

It is believed to be the first local authority in Spain to make face masks obligatory in part of its public outdoor spaces for people out exercising.

The Senda Litoral is a project involving 14 Costa del Sol municipalities designed to connect more than 110 miles of coastline with existing paths and seafront promenades.

It raises the prospect other town halls along the famous coastline will follow suit, effectively banishing sports enthusiasts from enjoying seaside jogs at any time of the day.

The use of face masks in Spain has gradually been tightened up. They are now obligatory almost everywhere in public outdoors across the country, having been obligatory in public in closed spaces like shops as well as public transport for some time.

Madrid and the Canary Islands are the only two regions who allow people to ditch them in public spaces outdoors where social distancing can be guaranteed.

Exceptions on where they have to be used vary from region to region. Most places with coastline have exempted beaches but Andalucia which includes the Costa del Sol insists on their use on beaches unless sunbathers are sat on the sand or heading to and from the water for a swim.

One of Spain’s top health officials warned that the country could be suffering a second wave of coronavirus amid an alarming increase in cases that has sparked numerous local lockdowns. 

Deputy emergency health director Maria Jose Sierra has revealed her concerns over the spike in Covid-19 cases as the country recorded an additional 2,255 new cases today.

Ms Sierra said: ‘We have important outbreaks. It could be a second wave. We’ll have to see what happens in the next few weeks.’  

In the past 24 hours, some 922 new infections were diagnosed, the ministry said, compared with 971 the previous day. 

France’s prime minister Jean Castex said ‘we strongly encourage French citizens to avoid’ going to Catalonia, which has seen nearly 8,000 new cases in the last two weeks.  

French health officials are also concerned about steadily increasing coronavirus cases in their own country, having recorded 4,724 new cases this week, up from 3,922 from a week earlier.    

Sierra’s comments mark the first time a senior Spanish health official has used the expression ‘ second wave’ since a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases following the end of the country’s state of emergency on June 21. 

The Spanish tourism industry, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the nation’s economy, now faces uncertainty after the country’s borders were reopened to tourists with great fanfare last month.  

And Spanish epidemiologist Juan Jose Badiola said he could not rule out a national return to the draconian state of emergency lockdown, when people were ordered to stay indoors unless it was to go to buy food or head to the chemist’s.

He told Spanish TV station Telecinco today ‘I would like to think we don’t have to go back to that but I can’t rule it out completely because the rate of new infections is becoming very worrying.’

The region of Murcia sealed off 30,000 people in the town of Totana earlier this week, barring anyone from entering or leaving after 55 cases linked to a nightlife venue.

Elsewhere, restrictions have been tightened in Zaragoza and Pamplona while millions of people have been urged to stay at home in Catalonia, including in Barcelona. 

In Galicia, the last movement restrictions were lifted in A Marina yesterday but 350 people are still under observation at home and four are in hospital after an outbreak in the area. 

Other Spanish health officials are more confident that the spurt in cases will decline.   

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto tried to put a positive on an increasingly worrying situation by insisting the health situation in Catalonia and Aragon, the country’s two worst affected areas, was ‘getting better’.

Josep Maria Argimon, the secretary of Public Health of Catalonia, admitted its health system was facing ‘critical days.’

He added: ‘We’re not in critical days like in March, when our hospital intensive care units were full. Now what’s critical is that people follow all the rules and guidelines to ensure the spread of the virus slows down.’

France has said it would not rule out closing its border with the Catalan region of Spain as it experiences a ‘significant rise’ in infections, according to the French public health authority.   

Catalonia, which borders France, has been at the heart of a rebound in coronavirus cases since Spain lifted a nationwide lockdown one month ago.

Nearly 7,000 cases have been logged there in the past 14 days, accounting for almost half the nationwide total, though the rate has dropped in the past days. 

Norway has similarly warned that it may add Spain to its list of high-risk countries which would mean that all arrivals would be forced into a ten-day quarantine. 

Restrictions on late night bars and discos have been implemented in several Spanish towns and regions ahead of what is being seen as a critical weekend for Spain’s attempts to turn the tide in its battle against a second wave of cases.

Any nationwide return to lockdown would prove to be another blow to the Spanish economy after two thirds of tourists cancelled their hotel bookings this month. 

Cancellation rates are as high as 77 per cent among families and 70 per cent in the Balearic Islands which include Mallorca. 

At some hotels, the number of tourists cancelling holidays that they booked several weeks or months ago is higher than the number of new bookings. 

Elizabeth Keegan, director of tourism in Lloret de Mar, said: ‘We are getting cancellations from Britain, France and Belgium.

‘The 120 hotels here are about 65 per cent full and they are normally 100 per cent full at this time of year.’   

Spain has recorded more than 9,000 new cases in the last seven days after seeing only 5,000 in the previous week.

According to research by tourism group Dingus, visitors who booked their trips between two and four months ago have cancelled more than 80 per cent of their holidays. 

Cancellation rates overall are as high as 70 per cent in the Balearic Islands and 64 per cent in Spain as a whole. 

While tourists travelling alone have cancelled 54 per cent of their reservations, families have scrapped as many as 77 per cent of their trips, the data shows.   

The UK government has not made any changes in its rules regarding Spain, after scrapping the 14-day quarantine rule for people returning from Spain to England after July 10. 

Scotland also exempted Spain from its own 14-day rules this week after initially keeping it on the quarantine list. 

But it comes after British tourists were warned that a new travel system means air bridges could collapse at short notice leaving them facing a quarantine on return to the UK.  

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this month set out exemptions for a number of countries from its ‘all but essential’ travel guidance. 

It means that currently holidaymakers can travel to 74 locations without having to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK.

However Britain currently reviews all the countries on the ‘safe list’ every three weeks. But the government is expected to unveil a new rolling review list that means places could be on a ‘red list’ at very short notice, as reported by The Telegraph.

This means you could go abroad to a country on the ‘safe’ list for your holiday, but while away a spike in coronavirus cases could mean the government could place it on the ‘red’ list, meaning you would have to quarantine for 14-days upon your return. 

There are also discussions of’regional’ air bridges could be set up to allow people to travel to specific areas of countries where there are lower rates of coronavirus infections. 

The government of the Balearic Islands insists that the archipelago is ‘safe for residents and visitors’, but some tourists have become alarmed by the growth in cases. 

The ‘regional’ air bridges plan could see low risk areas identified in high risk countries which travellers would be able visit without then being subject to 14-day quarantine rules upon their return. 

Such a move would mean the end of outright travel bans on entire countries and represent a further easing of quarantine rules. 

It is thought the air bridge plan is being looked at as part of a review of current travel restrictions, with changes due to be announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday.  

The introduction of ‘regional’ air bridges could open up travel to tourist hotspots like The Algarve and Madeira in Portugal while keeping a ban on going to areas like Lisbon where coronavirus is more prevalent.  

It could also allow for the return of some travel to the US amid fears the national scale of its outbreak could result in a long term ban.  

A source told The Telegraph: ‘Regional air bridges are an option for countries with localised outbreaks. 

‘The US is a major issue. If you judge it nationally, the absence of travel could go on for months, which is where individual testing of arrivals could work.’

Gloria Guevara, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, told The Times: ‘The establishment of air corridors between financial centres where infection levels are low, such as between London and New York, would provide a vital boost to business travel and aid the economic recovery.’  

Meanwhile, ministers are also believed to be looking at introducing coronavirus tests before or on arrival at UK airports in a further measure which could reopen travel to the US. 

Mr Shapps will set out on Monday any changes to the current travel rules and announce whether any countries will be added to the 74 which are already exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement. 

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