The number of new cases of COVID-19 in the Mediterranean country have tripled in the past three weeks as the lockdown is rolled back. Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe since the virus spread rapidly across the continent earlier this year. Since the country’s lockdown measures were eased at the end of June, the number of clusters has increased to 201, according to official data from the Spanish health ministry.
The ministry said around half of the new outbreaks could be traced to bars, discos or family gatherings.
And the rate of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed from eight per 100,000 people to 27 over the three-week period.
Health minister Salvador Illa said: “Where measures have been relaxed is where these clusters appear.
“We are talking about gatherings of extended family and spaces associated with nightlife.”
The majority of the new clusters have appeared in Catalonia, prompting authorities to impose a patchwork of restrictions.
Catalan authorities on Friday urged some four million people, including in Barcelona, to leave their home only for essential trips, banned gatherings of over ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants.
Other coastal Barcelona suburbs will apply similar restrictions on beaches’ capacity.
Barcelona would typically have around 40,000 people on its ten beaches at this time of year, a city spokeswoman said.
Some businesses have been infuriated by the reintroduction of strict measures.
Nightclubs, cinemas and gyms are among the facilities forced to close their doors just weeks after reopening.
Oscar Simon, the head of a martial arts school, was among those who attended a protest by sports centre managers and workers.
He said: “Why do we have to be closed?
“We cannot cope with this crisis, three more months closed will send us to our death.”
Mr Simon said he had spent a lot of money on protective equipment that guaranteed health standards and said he did not see why businesses had to shut.
Since the pandemic started, Spain has declared 313,274 infections.
The country’s official death toll stands at 28,424.