Barcelona imposes beach restrictions amid coronavirus spike fears

Sunbathers enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona. (AP)

Authorities in Barcelona have been forced to cut the number of people allowed on the city’s beaches over fears of a second spike in coronavirus cases.

Barcelona, Spain's second largest city and one of Europe's most visited destinations, would typically have around 40,000 people on its ten beaches at this time of year, a city spokeswoman said.

But on Tuesday, authorities slashed the number of subathers allowed on the beach to 32,000 from 38,000.

Crowds flocked to the sea at the weekend despite advice to stay home to curb a local rise in coronavirus infections.

Police officers patrol the beach. (AP)

Cinemas, nightclubs and gyms in Barcelona have also been forced to close their doors again because of the recent surge in cases.

Spain has been one of Europe's hardest-hit countries by the pandemic, with more than 28,000 coronavirus deaths.

It thought it had left the worse behind when it lifted a national lockdown in June but close to 200 new clusters have sprung up, mainly in Catalonia, prompting authorities to impose a patchwork of restrictions.

Catalan authorities on Friday urged some four million people, including in Barcelona, to leave their home only for essential trips, banned gatherings of over ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants.

Spain’s coronavirus rate went up three-fold over the last three weeks as its authorities struggle to contain the rash of fresh clusters, Health Ministry data showed on Monday.

Since restrictions on movement were lifted and Spaniards relaxed back into daily life, some 201 new clusters have appeared, with heavy concentrations in and around the Catalan cities of Barcelona and Lleida.

The occurrence of the novel coronavirus has jumped from eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants at the end of June, when the country's state of emergency ended, to 27 per 100,000, deputy health emergency chief Maria Sierra told a news conference on Monday.

Over the weekend 4,581 new cases were recorded, bringing the total to 264,836, she added. More than 28,000 people have died.

"Where measures have been relaxed is where these clusters appear," Health Minister Salvador Illa said. "We're talking about gatherings of extended family and spaces associated with nightlife."

Describing the situation in Catalonia as concerning, he appealed to residents to respect health measures.

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