Border controls between Spain and Portugal until March. | - EFE


Spain's government announced on Tuesday it had extended controls along its 1,200-km border with Portugal until March 1, as both countries try to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.

"The severity of the restrictive mobility measures still in force in Spain and Portugal justifies maintaining ... controls at the internal land border ... with the same limitations applied during the initial ten days," the Spanish interior ministry said in the government's official bulletin.

The two governments had agreed to close on Jan. 28 the border for non-essential travel with exceptions for cross-border workers, health workers and truck drivers.
A surge in infections in Portugal since Christmas left hospitals on the verge of collapse, prompting a strict nationwide lockdown. Daily cases and deaths have fallen significantly in the past week, but hospitalisations and the number of patients in intensive care units remained high. .

In Spain, a third wave of COVID-19 infections is ebbing, with the 14-day incidence rate falling to 667 cases per 100,000 people on Monday from 900 cases in late January, but officials say the arrival of the new strains could drive a resurgence.

Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters that the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care should peak by the end of this week. The average occupancy of intensive care units is 43%.

Despite the stress on the health service, a court in the Basque region suspended a regional government order shutting bars and restaurants in areas with an incidence above 500 cases per 100,000 people.

The court accepted hospitality associations' argument that closures would cause serious economic damage, and said there was no evidence linking activity in bars and restaurants to a surge in cases after Christmas.

Restrictions in Spain vary from region to region, with Madrid enjoying some of the loosest rules - a fact that has attracted droves of French tourists eager to escape their nation's strict lockdown to enjoy the city's relatively bustling night life.