BARCELONA (Reuters) - Young Catalans should stop partying to help halt a surge in new coronavirus cases or local authorities may have to reimpose harsh restrictions, the leader of the northeastern Spanish region said on Monday.
Catalonia is at the heart of a rebound in coronavirus cases in Spain that started after a nationwide lockdown was lifted last month. France has asked its citizens not to travel there and Germany and Belgium have done the same for part of the region.
“If we continue with the current pace of social life the only thing we will accomplish is to worsen the situation,” Catalonia’s regional leader Quim Torra said, after youngsters reverted to the tradition of “botellones,” where they meet outside in the evening to drink and party.
“Doing botellones shows a lack of solidarity,” Torra told a news conference, adding that the youngsters could then pass on the coronavirus to more fragile people.
With an eye on foreign visitors, however, Torra also said Catalonia remained “ready to receive all tourists” and had robust health measures in place.
The Spanish government has said young people are among the groups with the highest number of new infections in this post-lockdown wave of COVID-19.
On Friday, Torra circulated on social media a video in which young people themselves warn of the dangers. “Coronavirus attacks at night and especially the younger population,” one teenager said in the video.
Torra’s regional government on Friday ordered the closure of all nightclubs, while bars and restaurants were told to shut at midnight in dozens of municipalities, including Barcelona. It has also recommended that some four million people stay home and avoid all but essential trips.
In many parts of Catalonia - which in 2019 was the Spanish region most visited by foreign tourists - the number of infections is now similar to the situation before Spain declared a national lockdown in March, Torra said.
More restrictive measures may have to be imposed if the situation does not improve within 10 days, he said, without elaborating.
“We are facing the 10 most decisive days of the summer. We are in a critical situation. It’s in our hands to prevent the situation escalating,” Torra said.
Barcelona’s landmark Sagrada Familia basilica may face a fine, he added, after it held a mass at the weekend that exceeded the allowed number of attendees.
Reporting by Joan Faus, Editing by Ingrid Melander and Gareth Jones