Spain's Rioja wine region bans wining, dining as pandemic curbs grow

Inti Landauro
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A wine industry worker wearing a face mask collects grapes amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Samaniego

Spain's Rioja wine region bans wining, dining as pandemic curbs grow

FILE PHOTO: A wine industry worker wearing a face mask collects grapes amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Samaniego

By Inti Landauro

MADRID (Reuters) - The wine-producing region of La Rioja on Tuesday ordered the closure of restaurants and bars in its two largest towns for a month as part of widening restrictions across Spain to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The number of cumulative infections rose by 18,418 to nearly 1.12 million and the health ministry added 267 deaths from Monday, the highest toll in the second wave of the pandemic, bringing the total to 35,298. Daily deaths during the first wave in late March peaked at almost 900.

A nationwide curfew has been in place since Sunday, while a growing number of regions have banned people from entering or exiting their territory. Deputy head of the Madrid regional government, Ignacio Aguado, said on Tuesday he backed such a lockdown for his central region.

La Rioja's shutdown will be enforced in the capital Logrono and in Arnedo, a town in the small northern region, mostly known internationally for its red wines.

"Experts tell us the outbreaks come mostly from relaxing in closed spaces...when we consume food and drinks and take off our masks," regional leader Concha Andreu told a news conference.

Together, Logrono and Arnedo account for more than half the region's 300,000 population. The people in the two towns will also be banned from leaving for non-essential reasons.

Catalonia's regional government said it would also need to take harsher measures in the coming days but did not say if a two-week closure of bars and restaurants there, set to expire on Saturday, would be extended.

Disagreements between the minority central government, regional authorities and the opposition have for months hampered the response to the pandemic, and the curfew, announced on Sunday, came after much political wrangling.

The nationwide curfew is set to expire on Nov.9. After that, it will be up to each region to decide whether to continue banning people from partying and moving around at night.

Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said the executive had gathered enough support to prolong the state of emergency, which provides legal backing for curfews and other restrictions, until May. Parliament is set to vote on this on Thursday.

The government also presented plans to raise taxes on large companies and high earners to fund increased spending as a way out of a record recession.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, Inti Landauro, Joan Faus, Belen Carreno; Writing by Inti Landauro and Ingrid Melander,; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Angus MacSwan and Bernadette Baum)