Barcelona bar staff protest new coronavirus shutdown

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By Luis Felipe Castilleja and Jordi Rubio

Banging pots and pans, some 1,000 hospitality workers rallied in Barcelona’s Old City on Friday to protest against a 15-day shutdown of bars and restaurants ordered by the Catalan regional government to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections in Spain.

“After all we’ve had to endure over the past months this really is the final slaughter,” said David Polo, one of the protesters who owns a restaurant called Iberia.

The protesters, some carrying flags proclaiming “young people have a right to work”, converged in front of the regional government headquarters in the historic Sant Jaume square, while some threw eggs at the neighboring city hall.

Under the new restrictions, reminiscent of a nationwide lockdown in March-June, bars and restaurants across the wealthy northeastern region popular with tourists may only offer take-away and delivery services until at least Oct. 30.

Shops and gyms also face capacity limits.

“It’s shameful… The people in charge do whatever they want and us business owners have to foot the bill,” Polo said.

One man dressed as a giant panda held up a banner that read: “In danger of extinction. Pandas and hospitality workers united by a cause.”

Some of the protesters marched through the city, blocking traffic on the busy Passeig de Gracia avenue, local police said.

Catalan hospitality association Fecasarm said the shutdown would hit some 30,000 establishments throughout the region, causing losses of up to 1 billion euros.

Without government support it estimates half of Catalonia’s restaurants could be bankrupt by the end of the year.

With just under 21,000 cases diagnosed in the past 14 days, Catalonia is Spain’s second-worst affected region after Madrid, where all non-essential travel has been banned to bring down the spiralling coronavirus caseload.

Spain’s cumulative tally of coronavirus infections rose by over 13,300 on Thursday to 921,374 in a slight acceleration from the previous few days.

“This is not going to be solved in 15 days, neither in Catalonia, nor in Spain, nor in Europe,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told RAC1 radio.

(Reporting by Luis Felipe Castilleja and Jordi Rubio in Barcelona; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Mike Collett-White)

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