The Catalan regional government on Saturday decided to re-impose a lockdown in and around the city of Lleida, northeast Spain due to a localized rise in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown that will affect over 200,000 people in the region.
This is the first such measure to be introduced since Spain ended its State of Alarm allowing the return of free movement around the country on June 21.
Regional leader Quim Torra explained that the decision has been made after a "considerable increase" in the number of coronavirus cases in the Segria region, which covers Lleida, its capital, and the surrounding area of 38 municipalities.
Almost 350 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the Segria region over the past week, many of them among temporary fruit pickers, and a temporary field hospital has been set up in Lleida.
The lockdown will last for an initial period of 15 days. Miquel Buch, head of the Catalan interior department, has confirmed an end to free movement "from 12:00 hours on July 4, 2020 till a new resolution is adopted."
Around 200 members of the Catalan regional police force (Mossos d'Esquadra) will be deployed at various points to enforce the lockdown.
Catalonia is the second region in Spain hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union on Tuesday announced a list of nations whose citizens will be allowed to enter 31 European countries.
As Europe’s economies reel from the impact of coronavirus, southern EU countries like Greece, Italy and Spain are desperate to entice back sun-loving visitors and breathe life into their tourism industries.
More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe each year, while some 10 million Europeans head across the Atlantic.
Many people both inside and outside Europe remain wary of travel in the coronavirus era, given the unpredictability of the pandemic and the possibility of second waves of infection. Tens of thousands of travelers had a frantic, chaotic scramble in March to get home as the pandemic swept across the world and borders slammed shut.
EU envoys to Brussels have launched a written procedure which would see the list endorsed Tuesday as long as no objections are raised by member countries. The list is expected to contain up to 15 countries that have virus infection rates comparable to those in the EU, reports AP.
Infection rates in Brazil, Russia and India are high too, and they are also unlikely to make the cut.
The countries would also have to lift any bans they might have on European travelers. The list of permitted nations is to be updated every 14 days, with new countries being added or even dropping off depending on if they are keeping the disease under control.
The daily number of new confirmed cases in the US has surged over the past week. The US has the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 2.6 million people confirmed infected and over 126,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts say understates the pandemic’s true toll due to limited testing and other reasons.
In contrast, the virus’s spread has generally stabilised across much of continental Europe.
The EU imposed restrictions on non-essential travel to its 27 nations, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which are part of the Schengen open-borders area, in March to halt the spread of the virus. Non-EU citizens who are already living in Europe are not included in the ban.
The EU list does not apply to travel to Britain, which left the EU in January. Britain now requires all incoming travelers — bar a few exceptions like truck drivers — to go into a self-imposed 14-day quarantine, although the measure is under review and is likely to ease in the coming weeks. The requirement also applies to U.K. citizens.
According to a BBC report, The National Institute of Health (ISS) said water from Milan and Turin showed genetic virus traces on 18 December, long before the country's first confirmed cases.
It adds to evidence from other countries that the virus may have been circulating much earlier than thought.
Chinese officials confirmed the first cases at the end of December. Italy's first case was in mid-February.
In May French scientists said tests on samples showed a patient treated for suspected pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus.
Meanwhile in Spain a study found virus traces in waste water collected in mid-January in Barcelona, some 40 days before the first local case was discovered.
In their study, ISS scientists examined 40 sewage samples collected from wastewater treatment plants in northern Italy between last October and February.
Samples from October and November came back negative, showing that the virus had not yet arrived, ISS water quality expert Giuseppina La Rosa said. Waste water from Bologna began showing traces of the virus in January.
The findings could help scientists understand how the virus began spreading in Italy, Ms La Rosa said.
However she said the research did not "automatically imply that the main transmission chains that led to the development of the epidemic in our country originated from these very first cases".
Italy's first known non-imported virus case was a patient in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region. The town was closed off and declared a "red zone" on 21 February. Nine other towns in Lombardy and neighbouring Veneto followed and the entire country went into lockdown in early March.
The ISS said the results confirmed the "strategic importance" of sewage water as an early detection tool because it can signal the virus's presence before cases are clinically confirmed. Many countries are now using the technique.
The institute says it aims to begin a pilot project monitoring waste water at tourist resorts in July with a view to setting up a nationwide waste water monitoring network later this year.
Nearly 35,000 people have died with Covid-19 in Italy, a tally from Johns Hopkins University shows.
Russia on Wednesday begun the process of clinical trial of a locally developed coronavirus vaccine on human body.
Its Health Ministry said the vaccine will be pushed into human body shortly after necessary preparations, reports AP.
According to a statement, Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology developed the vaccine in two forms – liquid and powder for injections.
It will be applied on trial basis on two groups of volunteers with 38 people each. Later, they will be isolated at two separate hospitals.
The ministry said running clinical trials in the midst of a pandemic is a unique situation. “So unprecedented measures have been taken — all potential participants of the trial ... spent two weeks (quarantined) in a sanatorium for observation."
The first dose of injections is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, it added.
Professor Alexander Gintsburg revealed that he and other researchers had tried the vaccine on themselves before the start of human studies and experienced no side effects. "Everyone is alive and well and cheerful," he added.
However, he then didn't clarify how many people injected themselves with the substance.
France is opening its borders with other European countries at midnight for the first time since shutting them amid virus fears three months ago, and will start opening up to visitors from other continents July 1.
It's among several European countries opening borders first thing Monday — though it's not clear how many Europeans are ready to travel again.
The French government has urged fellow EU members to coordinate their border rules, and is sticking to calendar recommendations from the European Commission last week.
"Given the favorable evolution of the health situation in France and in Europe," the French government said in a statement it's opening its borders to all arrivals from the EU and countries in the border-free Schengen zone Monday.
People arriving from inside Europe won't need to undergo quarantine. But France will apply different rules to visitors from Spain and Britain because those countries established different reopening schedules.
France will gradually allow visitors from outside Europe starting July 1, based on the virus situation in countries of origin.
The French government promised to ease entry for foreign students in particular ahead of the new academic year.