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Nightlife reopening plan too slow for some Spanish regions, too loose for others

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Spain's 6-month long state of emergency expired

MADRID (Reuters) - Several Spanish regions on Thursday slammed a national plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions on clubs and bars based on infection rates either because it is too slow or too loose, highlighting the strained relations between the different administrations.

Under the plan, which was approved by a narrow margin at a regional summit on Wednesday, regions with a 14-day infection rate below 50 cases per 100,000 people will be able to open nightclubs until 3 a.m.

Madrid, whose conservative leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso recently won a landslide election after campaigning on looser measures, and which has a 14-day rate of 165 cases, has said it will not adhere to the plan.

"This rule is not mandatory and cannot be enforced," Ayuso said. "We are talking about a political imposition that is not based on health and is arbitrary."

Miquel Iceta, Regional Policy Minister in Spain's left-wing coalition government, urged disgruntled regional chiefs not to view the plan as an imposition.

"I'd beg everybody to respect it, not because it is mandatory but because it is good for us all," he said.

Spain's overall infection rate fell to 118.5 cases per 100,000 on Wednesday, nearly halving since the end of April, but only the Balearic islands, Valencia and the North African enclave of Ceuta meet the sub-50 requirement to open clubs.

In regions deemed to be medium risk, where infections are trending downwards - the case for most of the country - venues may also open but capacity is limited to 30%.

Inigo Urkullu, the lehendakari, as the regional chief is called in the Basque Country, said he opposed the easing of measures arguing it was too loose and said he would stick to the curbs his administration approved earlier this week, according to local news agency Europa Press.

Alberto Nunez Feijoo, leader of the northwest Galician region and a fellow member of Ayuso's People's Party, accused the left-wing central government of standing in the way of reopening the economy.

"The same government that left responsibility in the hands of the regions and refused to coordinate during the worst of the pandemic now wants to limit the process of opening up," he tweeted.

"We must not make that mistake."

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro; Editing by Nick Macfie)