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Spain orders nationwide curfew to stem surge

BARCELONA, Spain — Buckling under the resurgence of the coronavirus in Europe, the Spanish government on Sunday declared a national state of emergency that includes an overnight curfew in hopes of not repeating the near collapse of the country’s hospitals.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the decision to restrict free movement on the streets of Spain between 11 p.m.-6 a.m. allows exceptions for commuting to work, buying medicine, and caring for elderly and young family members. He said the curfew takes effect Sunday night and would likely remain in place for six months.

“The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic,” Sanchez said during a nationwide address after meeting with his Cabinet. “The situation we are living in is extreme.”

The leaders of Spain’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities will have authority to modify the curfew in their territory to start between 10:00-12:00 p.m. and end between 5:00-7:00 a.m., close regional borders to travel, and limit gatherings to six people who don’t live together, the prime minister said.

The curfew does not apply to Spain’s Canary Islands, which were recently removed from Britain’s and Germany’s list of unsafe travel destinations due to the favorable trajectory of the virus on the archipelago.

With the mainland curfew, Spain is following the example of neighboring France, where the government ordered a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for major cities and large swaths of the country this week.

Health officials have been targeting nightlife and partying as some of the main sources for the latest revival of infections.

Sanchez said he will ask Parliament’s lower house this week to extend the state of emergency until May. As dictated by the Constitution, a state of emergency can last no longer than two weeks without the endorsement of the Congress of Deputies.

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