Spain to let regions decide COVID-19 restrictions from May 9

FILE PHOTO: Sofas are seen on a street after curfew, as the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish Government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is due to end on Sunday, in Barcelona, Spain, May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government will pass responsibility for coronavirus restrictions on to the country's 17 regions after a state of emergency expires next week, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said on Tuesday.

The six-month emergency decree, which provides a legal framework for the most restrictive COVID-19 measures, expires on on Sunday.

Regional authorities will then be able to set up curfews and lock down areas but must secure the support of local courts, Calvo said.

"Regions can justify, argue, propose measures to tribunals curfews or lockdowns that limit rights and freedoms, but they need a judicial authorisation," she told a news conference.

If a local court strikes down measures proposed by a regional government, it could appeal to the Supreme Court, which would then set up precedents applicable to all regions.

Without the state of emergency, Spanish authorities do not have the prerogative to suspend civil liberties like freedom of movement or assembly. Regions with high infection rates, such as the Basque Country, have asked the government to extend it.

It is unclear what the different regions will decide to do now that the responsibility has been bestowed upon them or how local courts will rule.

The central government has, however, decided to extend until Aug. 9 the protection of home owners from foreclosure if they cannot pay their mortgages and against cutting off electricity and water supplies if utilities bills are unpaid.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Nathan Allen and Ed Osmond)

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