UPDATE 1-Catalan authorities order local lockdown again despite court ruling

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BARCELONA, July 14 (Reuters) - Spain's Catalonia region on Tuesday issued a new order to place around 160,000 residents of the Lleida area under confinement to stem a surge in coronavirus infections, defying a judge's ruling that such a step was unlawful.

The new restrictions, which still need to be approved by another judge after the conflicting orders provoked confusion among residents, would come into force in the city of Lleida and seven towns around it on Wednesday and last for 15 days, Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budo said.

The regional government was confident the judge would approve the new decree issued as it gives Catalan authorities a stronger legal footing in tackling outbreaks, she said.

The new restrictions would only allow people to leave their homes for specific activities like working, buying groceries or exercising. Gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned, she said.

Hotels would be closed, as well as restaurants and bars except for food pick-up or delivery.

"We are asking citizens to be responsible to each other and to not leave (their homes) if it is not strictly necessary," Budo said. She suggested there would be fines for breaking the rules.

Residents of Lleida, which lies about 180 km (110 miles) west of Barcelona, have been blocked from leaving the area since July 4 amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

As cases continued to rise, the regional government on Sunday attempted to confine citizens to their homes but a local judge struck down the order, spreading confusion among residents and further uncertainty among local businesses.

Initially one of Europe's worst hit countries by the pandemic and more than 28,400 people have died.

Spain brought the crisis largely under control through a tough national lockdown that was lifted on June 21.

However, more 170 localized outbreaks have been recorded since then, with 120 still active and with the Lleida region at the center.

In the past seven days Catalonia has detected 2,148 cases of the virus, compared with 442 in neighboring Aragon, which has the second highest number. (Reporting by Joan Faus and Clara-Laeila Laudette, Writing by Nathan Allen, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

07/14/2020 13:46

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