Spain's Catalonia closes bars, restaurants for 15 days

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MADRID, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Catalan government in the northeastern region of Spain has decided to close all bars and restaurants for 15 days, in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. The measure will enter into force late Thursday.

"The measures will come into force overnight Thursday to Friday and will remain in place for an initial 15 days," acting regional leader Pere Aragones said at Wednesday's press conference.

The decision came after the regional health department on Wednesday recorded an incidence of 290 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest level since April.

According to figures published by the Spanish Health Ministry on Wednesday, Catalonia registered 20,188 new coronavirus cases in the previous 14 days, with 8.9 percent of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests carried out in the region between Oct. 3 and Oct. 9 coming back positive.

This is the first time one of Spain's 17 autonomous communities has decided to take such an action since the central government ended the nationwide State of Alarm in June.

The regional government also approved other measures to limit social contacts, such as banning non-professional sporting competitions, while universities will have to offer all but practical classes online from Thursday and people have been asked to work from home when possible.

Aragones insisted that the decision was "necessary" and was based on "medical reasons."

Although organizations representing the hospitality sector have said they will take legal action against the closure, Aragones said he was confident the courts would support the government and insisted that "It is absolutely necessary to limit our social activity to guarantee the Christmas campaigns."

As the world is struggling to control the pandemic, countries across the globe -- among them European Union member states, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 2, there were 193 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, 42 of them in clinical trials. Enditem

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