Spanish tourist hotspots seek return to curfews as youth infections rage

FILE PHOTO: Suspension of the San Fermin festival for the second year in a row due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pamplona
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By Nathan Allen

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Canary Islands and its Mediterranean region of Valencia have asked the government to bring back curfews to counter a soaring COVID-19 infection rate among unvaccinated youngsters that is threatening to scupper the summer tourism season.

Nationwide, cases had been dwindling over recent months but began to surge from the middle of June, propelled by the more contagious Delta variant and more socialising among younger groups.

Concerned by the surge, Germany designated Spain a high-risk area on Friday, obliging returning travellers to take a test to avoid quarantine.

France had already warned its citizens against visiting, though Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Spain was safe.

Since a state of emergency expired in May, regional authorities have been responsible for the COVID-19 response but need court authorisation or a government decree for strict measures including lockdowns, travel bans and curfews.

The Canaries' regional government said late on Thursday it would ask its Supreme Court to authorise a 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on Tenerife, which has the islands' highest coronavirus incidence.

Regional leader Angel Victor Torres told Cadena Ser radio on Friday it would prevent crowds building up at night and over the weekends.

"Pressure on hospitals is starting to grow. In Tenerife, ICU occupation is at around 15% and young people are being admitted to intensive care," he said.

Valencia, home to the popular resort of Benidorm, and the central region of Castilla and Leon, had already asked the central government for curfews but Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday that they were "not on the table."

Spain's two-week COVID-19 contagion rate rose to 316 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday, according to health ministry data, an increase of 38 points in two weeks.

The coronavirus rate for people aged 20-29 rose to 1,047 cases per 100,000 people, health authorities said.

Hospital admissions have begun to edge up but remain far below levels seen earlier this year.

Daily deaths have been declining since April as the most vulnerable groups, such as elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions, have been vaccinated.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Inti Landauro and Nick Macfie)