CORONAVIRUS

Galicia ‘comarca’ becomes the latest area in Spain to be confined due to coronavirus outbreak

The measure has been taken in A Mariña in Lugo, with the region in full election campaign mode ahead of polls on Sunday

Passers-by in Viveiro, A Mariña on Sunday.
Passers-by in Viveiro, A Mariña on Sunday.Eliseo Trigo / EFE

The Galician regional government was forced on Sunday to confine the 71,000 inhabitants of the comarca of A Mariña in Lugo, due to new coronavirus outbreaks that have been detected in the area. The emergency measure came into effect at midnight on Sunday night, due to a rising number of infections that now exceeds a hundred. Citizens will not be able to enter or leave until Saturday, the day before Galicia goes to the polls to vote in regional elections.

The move came a day after the Catalan regional government also confined residents of another comarca, which is a traditional administrative division in parts of Spain. The more than 200,000 inhabitants of Segrià, in Lleida, were also prohibited from entering or leaving the area given the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Galician premier said that the outbreak was limited to “two or three bars” in the port area of Burela, after a number of waiters tested positive for Covid-19

The first infections in A Mariña were detected on June 24 by the local councils in Burela and Xove, and the health authorities in neighboring Asturias are on alert in case the outbreak crosses the River Eo. At least half a dozen bars and restaurants in the area, between Xove and Ribadeo, took the decision to close for two weeks after discovering that members of their staff had been infected.

On Friday, the Galician premier and candidate for reelection on Sunday, Alberto Núñez Feijóo of the conservative Popular Party (PP), said that the outbreak was limited to “two or three bars” in the port area of Burela, after a number of waiters tested positive for Covid-19. Feijóo called for calm and said that there was no “generalized problem in A Mariña,” and that, according to the Galician health department, the people in question were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

The Galician government on Sunday pointed to the fact that, despite this growing outbreak, the region saw fewer than 300 active cases for the first time since the worst moment of the crisis.

On Sunday, however, there were more than 100 reported cases in A Mariña and some related to the same outbreak had been detected in the capital of the province. Residents of the confined comarca have been taking part in a number of protests over the last month over the closure of the Alcoa aluminum plant in Cervo, Lugo.

The decision to close access to the comarca was conveyed by the regional health chief, Jesús Vázquez Almuíña, to the mayors of the 14 local councils affected by the measure. Internal mobility will be permitted, but there will be limits on capacity in establishments, timetables for closures of bars and restaurants, and face masks will be obligatory in the open air, including beaches and swimming pools. Only those who need to do so for work will be able to enter or leave A Mariña.

Vázquez Almuíña said on Sunday that anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus will not be able to vote in the upcoming elections, but close contacts to the confirmed cases will be able to do so if they take safety measures.

However, there have been calls from one opposition party, the Galician Nationalist Bloc, for the “suspension of the elections in A Mariña given the dimensions of the outbreak.” The party criticized what it called the “irresponsbility” and “improvisation” of the Galician premier in the face of a “public health question.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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