Spain declares state of emergency over coronavirus as Italy closes cinemas, theatres and gyms

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Pedro Sanchez has declared a national emergency - Europa Press
Pedro Sanchez has declared a national emergency - Europa Press

Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister of Spain, declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide curfew on Sunday, as Italy closed down event halls and Bulgaria’s leader tested positive for coronavirus.

Under Spain’s state of emergency, which was due to come into force on Sunday, citizens must remain inside their homes between 11pm and 6am unless they have a valid reason, such as work or other essential activities.

Regional governments have been allowed to adjust the timing of the start and end of the curfew by one hour, while the Canary Islands have been exempted from the curfew altogether.

After Spain recorded 110,000 new cases last week, passing a milestone of one million cases, Mr Sánchez said the situation was “extreme”, and urged citizens to “stay at home wherever possible”.

The state of emergency also allows regional governments  to apply a “rule-of-six” limit on social gatherings and seal their borders against non-essential entry or exit, as well as place districts or cities under perimeter lockdowns.

Mr Sánchez said he wants parliament to approve the state of emergency for six months, until 9 May.

“Experts estimate that is the time we need to overcome the most destructive phase of the pandemic. The cost in terms of lives must be as low as possible,” he said.

It came as Italy announced it would close cinemas, theatres, gyms and swimming pools, while restaurants and bars were told to shut at 6pm, in a fresh round of tough restrictions.

The new rules, which come into force on Monday, were imposed after 20,000 cases of coronavirus were recorded on Saturday.

Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, has stopped short of a full nationwide lockdown as the country’s economy was severely damaged by a ten-week lockdown imposed earlier in the pandemic.

"Our aim is to protect health and the economy," Mr Conte said.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte  - AFP
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte - AFP

A day earlier, Italy surpassed a half million confirmed coronavirus cases since February, when it became the first country in Europe to be stricken by the pandemic.

Italy still has Europe's second-highest virus death toll after Britain, at 37,210 people.

Meanwhile in Switzerland, hospitals have issued a call for medically trained volunteers and recently retired staff to help tackle a record number of coronavirus patients anticipated in the coming days.

Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) said the number of coronavirus patients was expected to be "far higher" than at the peak of the pandemic's first wave in March.

And in Bulgaria, prime minister  Boiko Borisov became the latest high-profile politician to test positive for the virus.

"After two PCR tests from today I am positive for Covid-19," he said on his Facebook page, adding that he had mild symptoms and would quarantine at home.

Mr Borisov, 61, self-isolated on Friday evening when a deputy minister of regional development he had been in contact with five days before tested positive for the virus.

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