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Catalonia Urges Thousands of People to Stay Home as Coronavirus Cases Rise 

An elderly couple walks on a street, after Catalonia's regional authorities and the city council announced restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona, Spain, July 17, 2020.

Authorities in Catalonia on Sunday urged more than 96,000 people in three towns to stay at home, as coronavirus cases continued to rise in one of Spain's worst-hit regions.

This is in addition to some four million people in the region, including in its capital Barcelona, that were on Friday urged to stay at home as regional authorities toughened their response to the crisis.

In a statement on Sunday, authorities urged people living in Figueres and Vilafant, in the province of Girona, and Sant Feliu de Llobregat, near Barcelona, to stay at home except for essential journeys.

The latest figures from Catalonia's regional health ministry on Saturday showed a daily increase of 1,226 cases.

The stay-home call stops short of imposing a mandatory lockdown, but is the strongest measure taken to returning people to home confinement since Spain emerged from a nationwide lockdown last month.

New measures include a ban on meetings of over 10 people. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to open, but at 50% capacity inside and with a 2-metre (6.5-foot) distance between tables outside.

Spain, one of Europe's hardest-hit countries with more than 28,000 COVID-19 deaths, emerged from a strict national lockdown on June 21. But since then more than 170 infection clusters have sprung up, prompting regional authorities to impose a patchwork of local restrictions.