Castilla La Mancha became the latest Spanish region to announce an easing of pandemic restrictions as the national COVID-19 infection rate fell to its lowest level in nearly a month.
Bars and restaurants in the central region started to reopen from Friday, but customers must download a QR code before going inside, allowing them to be traced if an outbreak occurs.
The decision comes after a similar announcement by the western region of Extremadura on Wednesday.
Spain’s 14-day infection rate fell to 540 cases per 100,000 people, health ministry data showed on Thursday, marking the lowest level since Jan. 14 and well below the peak of 900 cases reached two weeks ago.
The overall number of cases rose by 17,853 to 3.04 million, while the death toll climbed by 513 to 64,217.
“We have yet to see a clear drop in fatalities, which we expect to start seeing from the beginning of next week,” Health Emergency Chief Fernando Simon told a news conference.
There have been protests by restaurant workers and owners and several regional authorities have started winding down restrictions imposed on the hospitality sector in December.
Madrid and Catalonia loosened some measures last week, while a court in the Basque Country on Tuesday suspended a regional order shutting bars and restaurants in hard-hit areas, following an appeal by business associations.
More than 20 similar appeals have been lodged by hospitality sector organisations.
Main Photo: A passer-by walks past closed flamenco dance show Tablao Casa Patas in Madrid, Spain. EPA-EFE/BALLESTEROS