NON-ESSENTIAL businesses in the Murcia region will have to close earlier from this Wednesday(January 20).

The regional government has introduced the measure to combat record-high figures of COVID-19 cases.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies and takeaway food outlets are exempt from the early closure ruling.

The edict means that outlets like gyms, betting shops and cinemas will have to shut by 8.00 pm.

Murcia’s health minister, Manuel Villegas, said: “This measure is aimed at reducing movement after 8.00 pm to as low a number as possible.”

The change does not affect educational centres in the evening

” We are facing a situation that is close to an emergency and staying at home is the most effective measure if we want to reduce infections in these difficult times, “added Villegas.

Hospital admissions for COIVD-19 cases are expected to exceed 1,000 cases this week for the first time during the pandemic amidst serious concerns that tougher restrictions are essential to stop overcrowding.

The curfew start of 10.00 pm cannot be brought forward and home lockdowns introduced by the Murcia government as the current national State of Alarm law does not give them that right.

The Castilla y Leon region has introduced an 8.00 pm curfew but that has been met with a legal challenge from the Madrid government.

Murcia president, Fernando López Miras, has written to Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, asking for the State of Alarm decree to be changed so that every region can decide on its own curfew hours.

43 out of 45 Murcia municipalities have closed their local borders, with the exception of Aledo and Labrilla.

Those are the only two areas where bars and restaurants are still open to provide terrace service at 75% of their normal capacity.

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