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Spain closes discos, bans smoking in the street in new virus measures

Spain said Friday it was closing discos and banning smoking in the street without social distancing, as it stepped up restrictions to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Salvador Illa unveiled a raft of new measures to be enforced nationwide after as the country battles a surge in the disease, with nearly 3,000 new cases in 24 hours reported Thursday.

In a bid to rein in the spread of COVID-19, discos, night clubs and dancing halls will be shut, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 1:00 am, with no new guests allowed in from midnight.

The ban on smoking on the street — which is in line with World Health Organization recommendations — is already in place in two of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, Galicia and the Canary Islands.

In retirement homes, visits will be limited and all new residents must be tested for the virus when they are admitted.

Regional authorities will be required to carry out testing among groups of the population that are particularly at risk, and in the built-up areas hard hit by the disease, but the health ministry gave no timetable for these measures to come into force.

A total of 28,605 people have died so far from coronavirus in Spain, which declared a state of emergency between March 14 and June 21 that allowed the central government to impose restrictions nationwide.

With the state of emergency subsequently lifted, autonomy has been handed back to the regional authorities.

The health ministry has had to negotiate with them to impose the new measures on a nationwide basis.

Spain has a population of 47 million and the infection rate of 110 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is higher than in other European countries.