The Spanish Canary Islands have banned smoking in public as part of the local government’s efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus in the holiday hotspot.
The ban, which took effect on October 8, aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the islands through more effective distancing measures, the local government said in a statement obtained by Real Press.
It is the first area in Europe that has introduced a ban on smoking in public, as the continent grapples with a resurgence in the number of people infected with the coronavirus.
The Canary Islands is an autonomous community in the Atlantic Ocean that consists of eight main islands, of which the most famed holiday centres are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and La Palmas.
According to the statement, the authorities “cannot guarantee the keeping of social distancing” while people are “walking and smoking in public streets”.
The measure will be instated across the entire autonomous community. Locals will also be forced to wear a face mask when visiting medical centres.
Social events, meanwhile, will be subject to different restriction depending on the “epidemiological situation” on local and regional level.
Events with more than 10 people will be prohibited in islands that have reported more than than 50 cases per 100,000 citizens and an increase of more than 10 percent in the accumulated number of cases within the past two weeks. And even smaller gatherings will be submitted to “strict safety measures”.
Bars will also be required to close by midnight.
The island will have to wait for their numbers to go down consistently for seven to 10 days before the new measures can be re-evaluated, the provincial government said.
The decision comes after the recent announcement that the Canary Islands will cover the connected costs if tourists are infected with the coronavirus while on holiday in the region.
The scheme, which is managed by French insurer AXA, would pay for medical expenses, accommodation and additional costs from prolonged stays due to quarantine as well as repatriation costs.
It comes as a measure to reactivate tourism as the archipelago is heavily reliant on the sector which sustains over 40 percent of the jobs in the region.
The islands saw more than 13.1 million tourists in 2019 with over a third coming from the United Kingdom according to the Spanish ‘National Statistical Institute’.
The Canary Islands have reported 3.1 million tourists up to August of this year which is over 5 million fewer tourists compared to the accumulated visitors in the same month of last yea