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Post Premium: Our best stories for the week of June 29 – July 5

As colleges and universities across Colorado work on plans to bring students back to campus safely this summer, administrators are grappling with potentially crippling budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic calamity and the loss of nearly a half-billion dollars in state higher education funding.

It is, to quote the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, a “cacophony of crises.”

In today’s Denver Post, reporter Elizabeth Hernandez takes a closer look at the dire fiscal situation facing the state’s institutions of higher learning, including concerns about enrollment drops as students opt to skip the uncertainty of a fall semester during the pandemic. Schools have been buoyed this year by federal coronavirus stimulus, but those in the state’s higher-ed community worry that the real crisis will hit next year when that funding runs out.

The impacts could be most drastic for Colorado’s least-affluent schools, the community colleges and regional public universities. “The cut in state funding and the loss in tuition revenue would potentially cripple our institutions in Colorado,” says Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System.

— Matt Sebastian, senior editor

From pandemic to recession, a “cacophony of crises” threatens Colorado’s higher-education institutions

Coronavirus pandemic gives Polis unprecedented power

Since his March emergency declaration, Gov. Jared Polis has had sweeping authority to control Colorado’s pandemic response path. He has issued more than 100 executive orders, according to a state tally.

The governor’s empowerment reflects not only the national trend but also that his most potent would-be antagonists in Colorado have mostly stepped aside or concurred with his approach. Although they sometimes clash over policy, Polis and the Democrats who control Colorado’s legislature generally share a common vision, and interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers show generally strong reviews for his pandemic response. Read more from Alex Burness.

RELATED: In first veto of 2020, Polis rejects bill to curb opioid addiction

Apartment developers remain bullish on Denver even as the pandemic batters the economy

When the coronavirus hit, Denver was coming off the biggest years for new apartment construction in its history.

The boom has come during a time in which the city has attracted young, high-paid renters from other parts of the country in droves and condo development in Colorado has been depressed by concerns about developer liability. Now that the decade-long economic expansion that helped fuel the boom has come to an abrupt end thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, apartment developers — in Denver and across the country — find themselves at a crossroads. Read more from Joe Rubino…

RELATED: Metro Denver home sales surge in June as demand outstrips supply

Neither Gardner nor Hickenlooper has lost a race in Colorado; their Senate matchup will change that

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is the most powerful Republican in Colorado, a fast-talking and fast-rising star within his party, a beacon of light for the political right in this increasingly Democratic state.

John Hickenlooper is Colorado’s best-known Democrat, a popular former governor with almost universal name recognition and a quirky persona that has played well in the Centennial State for two decades.

In the next four months, Gardner and Hickenlooper will go blow-for-blow across the state in the electoral equivalent of a heavyweight title fight. Read more about what to expect from Justin Wingerter.

More 2020 election news: Five takeaways from Colorado’s 2020 primary election

Colorado’s unemployment call center likely will never meet COVID-driven demand, as 40,000 calls go unanswered weekly

The customer service line has become a major chokepoint as tens of thousands of people seek help navigating the Colorado unemployment system’s murky waters as well as their own changing personal circumstances — such as furloughs becoming permanent layoffs.

Aaron Whitworth, 31, of Littleton, is among the people who say they have called the state’s customer service line hundreds of times in recent weeks with nothing to show for it. Read more from Joe Rubino.

Aurora police chief fires three officers as part of Elijah McClain photo investigation

Aurora’s interim police chief on Friday fired two officers who posed for a photo re-enacting a chokehold at the site of Elijah McClain’s violent arrest, and she terminated a third officer who received the picture mocking the 23-year-old’s death last summer.

Jason Rosenblatt, the officer who received that photo and a second image, was one of the three officers involved in McClain’s death, but he later was cleared of criminal or departmental wrongdoing. Read more from Sam Tabachnik.

Elijah McClain timeline: What happened that night and what has happened since

+ Colorado’s COVID-19 outbreaks shifting from nursing homes to retail outlets, restaurants

+ COVID threat isn’t over, especially for Coloradans with chronic conditions

+ Colorado Supreme Court upholds state’s ban on large-capacity gun magazines

+ Polis says pardons for marijuana convictions can start in 90 days

+ Denver to create campsites, consider tax hike to help people experiencing homelessness

+ How Colorado schools plan to reopen this fall during the coronavirus pandemic

+ A Sikh business owner was told to “go back your country” before being run over by a car; now the community is demanding justice.

+ Unpredictable House race ahead for western Colorado after Boebert ousts Tipton

+ Colorado nonprofits struggle to stay afloat as pandemic captures funders’ attention, dollars

+ Colorado State expels incoming student over racist social media post

+ This laid-off chef knows coronavirus is hard on families, so he’s giving meals away. — The Know

+ This popular waterfall hike joins the list of Colorado trails being loved to death — The Know Outdoors

See more great photos like this on The Denver Post’s Instagram account.


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Health minister hails responsible behaviour after English pubs reopen

LONDON (Reuters) – People in England appear to have broadly behaved themselves as pubs reopened this weekend, Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday after the latest step towards a return to normality from the coronavirus lockdown.

Thousands of people flocked to pubs, restaurants and bars around England on Saturday as large parts of the hospitality sector reopened for the first time since March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “enjoy summer safely” as he bids to tread a narrow path of restoring consumer spending to help battered businesses recover, while avoiding a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“From what I’ve seen, although there’s some pictures to the contrary, very very largely people have acted responsibly,” health minister Matt Hancock told Sky News.

“Overall, I’m pleased with what happened yesterday. It was really good to see people out and about, and largely socially distancing.”

Britain has been the European country worst hit by the coronavirus and has an official death toll of 44,198.

Johnson and Prince Charles each paid treatment to Britain’s National Health Service, 72 years after it was founded, for its sacrifices in tackling the pandemic.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, thanked the public for their support, as well as their restraint on Saturday night.

“Pleasingly, we did not see last night the kind of scenes people feared (there) might be” he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“The foolish few, but the sensible majority, I think is the story across the country, and long may that continue.”

Police Federation National Chair John Apter however said it was “crystal clear” that drunk people were unable to practice social distancing.

The rule changes apply only to England as the devolved nations in the United Kingdom have been setting their own timetables for easing restrictions, with Wales and Scotland easing restrictions more slowly.

The government has said that it is aiming for local lockdowns rather than national restrictions if needed, such as the one introduced in the city of Leicester last week.

Hancock said he was worried about factory conditions in the city. Boohoo (BOOH.L) last week defended its supply chain practices after criticism from a garment workers’ rights group.

“There are some quite significant concerns about some of the employment practices in some of the clothing factories in Leicester,” he said, adding there was significant enforcement powers available including shutting down businesses.

“We’re not just asking nicely, we’re very clear to businesses that these are their responsibilities.”

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Death toll in Ethiopian protests after killing of singer jumps to 156

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The number of people killed in protests in Ethiopia following the slaying of a popular singer has jumped to 156 from the initial tally of 80, a senior regional security official told Reuters on Sunday.

The protests were sparked by the assassination of musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa on Monday night and spread from Addis Ababa to the surrounding Oromia region.

Jibril Mohammed, head of the Oromia Security and Peace Bureau, said the 156 are those who died just in the Oromia region, which was the worst hit by the protests.

He said more deaths might be reported due to the number of injuries being treated in hospitals. Some 145 of the casualties are civilians while 11 are security personnel, he added.

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Philippines records highest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines reported its biggest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases on Sunday, adding 2,434 confirmed infections and taking the total count to 44,254, the health ministry said.

The ministry said the rise could be attributed to increased contact among people as the country began easing lockdown measures to help reduce the pandemic’s damage to the economy.

The Philippines also recorded seven new deaths, the ministry said, bringing total fatalities to 1,297.

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Merkel warning: German leader told NOT to cling to power – ‘Would quickly turn sour’

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Germany’s Chancellor stood down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union in 2018, while remaining as the country’s leader. However, she announced she would stand down in 2021, and would not seek a fifth term in office.

Germans would quickly sour on this

Thorsten Benner

With no obvious replacement having yet emerged, Mrs Merkel retains enormous amounts of authority not to mention worldwide name recognition, and it was reported government officials were “really glad” she was still in charge to manage the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Thorsten Benner of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin told The Sunday Times any bid to prolong her tenure would be a mistake and could backfire.

He said: “Germans would quickly sour on this.

“They are anxious about the economy, sure, but they’re ready to turn a page.

“And there’s a generation of men who think it’s their turn to take over.”

Furthermore, were the 65-year-old to outstay her welcome, it would play into politicians from the far-right, he predicted.

Germany’s right-wing AfD party took 12.6 percent of the vote, and 94 seats in the Bundestag, in the 2017 general election which sat the CDU/CSU alliance take less than 33 percent and 246 seats, down 65.

Assessing Mrs Merkel’s handling of the pandemic, which has seen a notably low COVID-19 fatality rate in Germany, Joerg Friborg of the German Marshall Fund think tank said: “It was a situation that was made for her.

“There have been ups and downs for her over the years.

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“It seemed the government wouldn’t survive just a year ago.

“But she’s always managed to recover: she has a proven ability to handle crises.”

However, CDU MP Juergen Hardt said she would not be persuaded to change her mind about stepping down, despite the praise which has been heading her way.

He explained: “She’s thinking, ‘I did it for 16 years.

“I have nothing left on my desk to accomplish.

“I’m healthy, I have some years left to enjoy without all the pressure of leadership.”

The race to replace Mrs Merkel was thrown wide open this year after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, whom was tipped to succeed her, announced she was standing down as CDU leader after persistent criticism.

She said: “This is a decision that I have come to over a period of time.”

A new leadership contest is likely to be held in the summer.

Mrs Merkel’s final months as Chancellor will largely coincide with Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Asked about the future of the bloc, itself under pressure for its sluggish pandemic response, she said: “Rather than ask the existential question too often, we should get on with the day job.”

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Melania Trump bombshell: Reason why Donald Trump is ‘scared’ of his wife in White House

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Melania Trump scares the President of the United States, and her husband, Donald Trump, according to a tell-all book from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Speaking to Andrew Marr, the book’s author Mary Jordan told the BBC that Melania has far more power than many people believe she does. In the conversation, Marr and Ms Jordan discussed the fact that Melania exercised her power when she delayed moving into the White House because she was negotiating a better prenuptial deal with Donald Trump.

When Marr asked if Donald Trump was scared of his wife, Ms Jordan said: “Yes. I think she has unique power of him.

“She was the only person standing beside him, when he spoke with Putin at length in Helsinki.

“There wasn’t even an American translator present.

“She has been in the room for things where nobody else was there.”

JUST IN: Donald Trump suffers embarrassing blunder during national anthem 

The book, Art of Her Deal: Melania Trump, also reveals how Melania did not cry on the night Donald Trump won the US Presidential election, despite widespread rumours.

Ms Jordan explained: “That is absolutely wrong. I spoke with those with her on that night and quite the opposite happened.

“Also, speaking with her long-time friends, Melania does not cry. When she gets mad she just disappears.”

The book also details a “striking” daily scene in the private residences of the White House, where Melania lives with Donald, her son Barron, and her Slovenian parents.

Ms Jordan told the BBC: “I’ve heard from people that there is this amazing daily scene in the private residence where the mother, father, Melania and Barron all speak Slovenian.

“Trump will walk by and mutter how it is making him crazy that he has no idea what they are saying.”

Melania also used the rampant allegations of Donald Trump’s infidelity to her advantage, according to the author.

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The First Lady was “really, really mad” when she found out the details of his affairs and was “embarrassed” to see her son Barron was even reading about them.

Ms Jordan explained: “Donald Trump needed her to back him up on those allegations of infidelity. She used that because Trump needed her support.

“If she walked, and he was now a three-time divorced President, it wouldn’t look good to his supporters.”

In a big departure from 2016, where Melania hardly featured on the presidential campaign trail, it is widely understood that Melania will play a bigger role in the upcoming election.

Ms Jordan said: “She has said she will help fundraise and be more front and centre. She always calculates what is good for Melania and Barron.”

Melania joined up her husband for his latest rally at Mount Rushmore, where President Trump celebrated America’s Independence Day.

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Vogue Portugal defends mental illness cover

Vogue Portugal has responded to criticism over its depiction of mental health treatment on a recent magazine cover saying its aim was to “shine a light” on the important issue.

The “Madness Issue” features a woman in a bathtub in a hospital setting with a nurse pouring water over her head.

Mental health experts and sufferers said the cover depicted a “dystopian” and “outdated” idea of treatment.

Vogue Portugal said the image was intended to “start a discussion”.

“The cover story explores the historical context of mental health and is designed to reflect real life and authentic stories,” the publisher said in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday.

“Inside the issue features interviews and contributions from psychiatrists, sociologists, psychologists and other experts,” the statement added.

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THE MADNESS ISSUE. COVER 1/4 It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about us. It’s about you. It’s about now. It’s about health. It’s about mental health. #themadnessissue It’s about time. . Edição julho/agosto disponível em vogue.pt/shop Nas bancas disponível a partir de 10 de julho. ___
 July/August issue available at vogue.pt/shop Newsstands available from July 10th. . Photography @branislavsimoncik Styling @ninaford_ @nemamconaseba Hair @janmolnarofficial Make up @lukaskimlicka Models @simonakirchnerova Assistants Branislav Waclav / @PatrikHopjak / @fosia.rvs @exitmodelmanagement . #vogueportugal @lighthouse.publishing #editorinchief @sofia.slucas #creativedirection @jsantanagq

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THE MADNESS ISSUE. COVER 1/4 It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about us. It’s about you. It’s about now. It’s about health. It’s about mental health. #themadnessissue It’s about time. . Edição julho/agosto disponível em vogue.pt/shop Nas bancas disponível a partir de 10 de julho. ___
 July/August issue available at vogue.pt/shop Newsstands available from July 10th. . Photography @branislavsimoncik Styling @ninaford_ @nemamconaseba Hair @janmolnarofficial Make up @lukaskimlicka Models @simonakirchnerova Assistants Branislav Waclav / @PatrikHopjak / @fosia.rvs @exitmodelmanagement . #vogueportugal @lighthouse.publishing #editorinchief @sofia.slucas #creativedirection @jsantanagq

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End of Instagram post by vogueportugal

The woman featured in the bathtub, Slovak model Simona Kirchnerova, wrote in an Instagram post on Friday that it was a “career highlight” because those stood either side of her were family members.

“Made it to Vogue cover with my mum and my grandma,” she wrote.

But London-based clinical psychologist Katerina Alexandraki told the BBC that she considered the cover to be “unethical”.

“For those with experience of the psychiatric system, seeing a fashion magazine cover presenting a woman in such a vulnerable state can be a reminder of a very challenging time in their lives,” she said.

“This image reinforces the idea of women being vulnerable and helpless during a mental health breakdown. It does not show us the effort those with mental health put in to overcoming their struggles, their strengths and resistance to overcome adversity,” she added.

‘Very bad taste’

Portuguese model Sara Sampaio said images like the one portrayed on the Vogue Portugal cover “should not be representing the conversation about mental health”.

Ms Sampaio, who said she had suffered with mental health issues herself, said she considered it “very bad taste”.

“It looks like its in an [outdated] mental hospital” that used to “torture” patients, she said in a video posted on social media.

She added that it comes at a particularly sensitive time “because of Covid and the way that mental health has been dealt with” while many people have been isolated or directly affected by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Writer and mental health awareness advocate Poorna Bell, whose husband took his life 2015, wrote about her disapproval on Twitter using an expletive, preceded by: “On behalf of anyone who has ever been in a psychiatric hospital or had a loved one who has been in one.”

“The thing is knowing how painfully slow the process is to get anything signed off on a magazine, this will have been seen and approved by many, many eyeballs,” she added.

A psychotherapist based in Lisbon, Silvia Baptista, said the cover was “everything the mental health conversation doesn’t need”.

“These nurses, this patient, what is this? What is this uninformed and disrespectful ensemble?” she wrote on Instagram, adding that it was wrong to “glamorise” mental illness.

Vogue Portugal ended its statement saying that it recognised the “significance of the topic of mental health”.

“Our intention, through visual storytelling, is to shine a light on the important issues of today,” it said.

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The motorcycle bandits terrorising northern Nigeria

Motorcycle-riding armed bandits operating out of abandoned forest reserves are ransacking communities in Nigeria’s north-west.

The groups are the latest to join Nigeria’s lucrative kidnap for ransom industry, and are quite brazen in their operations.

In the last decade more than 8,000 people have been killed in the states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Zamfara, according to the International Crisis Group.

But recent attacks in the president’s home state of Katsina, where more than 100 people were killed in attacks between April and June, have led to protests and calls for his resignation.

On two separate occasions the bandits targeted villagers who had received food handouts from the government during the coronavirus lockdown.

“They were about 200 on motorbikes, each bike rider carried a passenger and they all carried AK47 guns,” Bashir Kadisau, an eyewitness, told the BBC.

He said he climbed to the top of a tree when he saw the large number of motorcycle riders coming into Kadisau village, and saw the attackers loot shops, steal cattle and grain, and shoot people who were fleeing.

Climate change fuels conflict

The attacks are rooted in decades-long competition over resources between ethnic Fulani herders and farming communities.

The herders are mostly nomadic and can be found on major highways and streets across the country herding their cattle, but they have become involved in deadly clashes with farmers in Nigeria’s north-western and central states.

This is because these areas have suffered massive deforestation, due to the impact of the Sahara Desert spreading south, causing arable farming land to disappear and water to become scarce.

Militant Islamistsin the north-east

Armed banditsin the north-west and centre

Farmers and herdersin the north-west and centre

Street gangsin the south-west

Biafra separatistsin the south-east

Oil militantsin the Niger Delta

“The persistent clashes led to the formation of armed self-help groups, called vigilantes, by both sides for protection,” security analyst Kabiru Adamu told the BBC.

‘Kidnapping more lucrative than herding cows’

Armed groups within Fulani communities are being accused of resorting to criminality.

“The herders now see kidnapping and pillaging as more lucrative than the herding.

“The biggest cow would go for 200,000 naira but one kidnapping would fetch millions,” Dr Adamu said.

Nigeria’s Fulani herders deny the accusation.

The main Fulani cattle-breeders association, Miyetti Allah (Hausa for Thank You God), said they are the ones mostly affected by the activities of the bandits and that hundreds of their members have been kidnapped.

“Our cows have been rustled. The bandits are a bunch of criminals comprising all sorts of groups. We have lost 30% of cattle in Nigeria to different types of crises,” Miyetti Allah’s national secretary Baba Othman Ngelzarma told the BBC.

He said the attackers in Nigeria’s north-west were “foreign herders from neighbouring countries”.

Nigeria’s north-west, an area almost the size of the UK, borders Niger and criminal gangs criss-cross between the two countries, evading security.

‘Herders seek revenge’

The borders are porous and the vast forest reserves in the border regions have been turned into operational bases for the bandits.

Police say the attacks in the north-west are being carried out by criminal gangs, as well as Fulani herdsmen.

“The Fulani herders suddenly realised that they now have arms to protect themselves. But they are not just protecting themselves, they are also going after those who wronged them in the past,” Isah Gambo, police spokesman in Katsina state, told the BBC.

Kidnapping for ransom is widespread in Nigeria, with victims forced to pay between $20 and $200,000 for their freedom.

At its height in 2017 and 2018, the major road connecting the capital Abuja in central Nigeria to Kaduna in the north-west had 10 kidnappings per day with 20 different groups operating on the route, the police head of a special unit fighting kidnappers, Abba Kyari, told the BBC.

Peace deal with bandits

The governor of Katsina state, Aminu Bello Masari, went into the forest hideout of the bandits last year, negotiating a deal that would see them escape prosecution in exchange for stopping the attacks.

But he caused shock among many Nigerians when he appeared in a photo standing next to a bandit wielding an AK-47 rifle.

Businessman Nasif Ahmad, who had been kidnapped in Katsina only days before, condemned the governor for making the deal.

“How can a state government go into a deal with bandits who have no education, have no sympathy or faith and behave like animals,” he said.

Mr Ahmad said he fought off the bandits after they abducted him, and spent the night in the forest.

“I felt very, very bad when I heard about the governor going into a deal with them,” he told the BBC.

Buhari targeted

The governor said at the time that the talks were aimed at ending the “incessant wanton destruction of lives and property”, and were yielding positive results.

But last month, Mr Masari told journalists that the peace deal was off because of continuing attacks.

“These bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose and no reason whatsoever. How can a human being behave the way an animal cannot behave?” he asked.

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Last month’s street protests in Katsina saw angry protesters burn down an old campaign billboard of President Muhammadu Buhari, the clearest indication yet that people in his home state had run out of patience.

Mr Buhari, a retired army general, was elected in 2015 on promises of solving Nigeria’s various security challenges.

But in his time, a deadly Islamic insurgency has continued to rage in the north-east, while criminal activities, along with the farmer-herder clashes, appear to have escalated in the north-west and central states.

Nigeria’s military is currently carrying out an operation on the orders of the president to “sweep bandits and kidnappers” out of his home state.

Mr Buhari has also attempted to solve the underlying reasons for the conflict by proposing grazing reserves for the herders.

But in a country divided along ethnic lines, many powerful state governors refused to buy into the project, accusing the president, a Fulani, of hatching a plan to seize land for his ethnic group.

It is increasingly clear that the lines between the farmer-herder clashes and banditry are becoming more blurred in the north-west, and as the Katsina state governor learned, bandits do not keep their word.

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Ghana's president self-isolates after close person tests positive for coronavirus

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo will self-isolate for 14 days on the advice of doctors after a person in his close circle tested positive for coronavirus, the government said in a statement late on Saturday.

“He has, as at today, tested negative, but has elected to take this measure out of the abundance of caution,” the statement said, adding that the president will continue to work during the period, in compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.

The statement did not say if the close person was a staff or family member.

Ghana has recorded 19,388 coronavirus cases, one of the highest number of cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with 117 deaths.

The West African nation’s deputy trade and industry minister Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah resigned on Friday for violating coronavirus self-isolation measures after he tested positive for the virus.

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Catalonia locks down 200,000 over coronavirus outbreak

People will not be allowed to enter or exit Segria zone, which includes Lleida city, after a sharp rise in infections.

Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region on Saturday locked down an area with about 200,000 residents following a surge in cases of the new coronavirus.

Catalonia’s regional president Quim Torra said there had been a “sharp rise” in infections in Segria, a zone that includes the city of Lleida some 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Barcelona.

“We’ve decided to confine Segria due to data that confirm too significant a growth in the number of COVID-19 infections,” Torra told a news conference.

People would not be allowed to enter or leave the area, gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned and visits to retirement homes halted, officials said.

The restrictions do not apply to seasonal harvest workers, and movement is not restricted within the zone, however.

Regional health ministry data showed there were 3,706 cases in the Lleida region on Friday, up from 3,551 the previous day.

Catalonia is one of the hardest-hit parts of Spain, with a total of 72,860 coronavirus cases, according to regional health ministry data released on Friday.

The move came as the summer holiday started in Spain and the country began re-admitting visitors from 12 countries outside the European Union, two weeks after allowing people from the EU’s visa-free Schengen zone and Britain to return.

“It is a surprise,” said Josep Raluy, a 63-year-old retiree who returned to the area from a second home as a precaution. “It’s another step backwards, it’s not good.”

Spain has been one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic with at least 28,385 deaths, Europe’s fourth-highest toll after Britain, Italy and France.

Madrid imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus and only recently began to open up.

Cultural site reopens

Barcelona celebrated another milestone in its bid to reopen on Saturday, with visitors allowed back into the Sagrada Familia – an imposing modernist basilica that is among Spain’s most visited buildings.

In the first phase of its reopening, health workers were the first to be admitted as a tribute to their work battling the pandemic.

Matilde Fuentes, a 49-year-old doctor, was particularly touched.

“We went through very difficult times, we tried to be there whenever we were needed, and now that they thank us it gives me goosebumps.”

Speaking during a trip Saturday to Galicia in the country’s northwest – the first region to exit the lockdown last month – Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned: “Do not let your guard down, but do not let yourself be overcome by fear.”

“We must take to the streets, take advantage of the new normality, revive the economy,” the socialist leader said, adding that “the state is better prepared to fight” against the resurgence of the epidemic.

On Friday, Spain registered 17 virus deaths within 24 hours, its highest daily toll since June 19. There have been more than 50 reported outbreaks throughout nearly all of the country’s regions.

The total number of cases now stands at 250,545 in a country of 47 million.

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