Smoking ban hits Canary Islands to curb COVID-19

Many residents in the Canary Islands are breathing a sigh of relief, after the islands became Spain's second region to all but ban smoking in the streets on Thursday.

It's part of measures to stop a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

Smoking will be banned when people cannot socially distance 2 meters apart from one another on the islands, which are popular with tourists.

Officials said smoking in public places, such as outdoor bar terraces or near other pedestrians poses a heightened risk of infection.

This after Spain lifted one of Europe's strictest lockdowns around seven weeks ago, but has since struggled to curb new infections, with average daily cases rising from less than 150 in June to more than 1,500 in the first 12 days of August.

Many welcomed the ban, saying it is in the best public interest

RESIDENT GRACIELA ESPINO: "I think it is great that they are taking new measures because there are many outbreaks and if measures are not taken we will have to lockdown again."

Even some smokers welcomed the inconvenience amid a global pandemic.

CANARY ISLAND RESIDENT MARCELO GUERRATO, SAYING: "I think it is good. I smoke but you have to comply with it. In my opinion the measure is correct."

But some hospitality workers were weary of the potential economic toll the ban could cause, saying the measure further cripples operations for an already fragile bar and restaurant industry that has been hit hard by a lack of tourists.

The northwestern region of Galicia imposed a similar ban on smoking on Wednesday. Other regions have eyed comparable restrictions.

There were 99 new cases reported in the Canary Islands Thursday, but health officials hope the crackdown on public smoking is one additional step to bring that number down.