FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks stand outside a restaurant at Usera neighbourhood, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Madrid, Spain, September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho
October 2, 2020
By Belén Carreño and Emma Pinedo
MADRID (Reuters) – Madrid and nine satellite towns will come under new lockdown restrictions by decree within hours, a regional government source said on Friday, as the Spanish capital faces the worst COVID-19 infection rate from Europe’s second wave.
The conservative-led Madrid area authority is reluctantly complying with an order from the Socialist-led central government to ban travel except for school, work, health or shopping in an area of 4.8 million people.
Famous for its late-night carousing and usually bustling tourist flow, Madrid is also seeing a curfew for bars and restaurants moved to 11 p.m. from 1 a.m.
The measure is a huge blow to residents of the Spanish capital after already enduring one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns earlier in the year, though this time people will not be prohibited from leaving their homes.
Still, many “Madrilenos” were exasperated at political bickering over the measures and were scrambling to work out just how the new restrictions would affect them.
Various others of Europe’s busiest cities have also tightened measures in past days, including limiting numbers in restaurants and making face masks compulsory in more place, to counter the resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Madrid’s new measures will come into effect as soon as the decree is published in the region’s official journal, due before 11 p.m. on Friday, the regional government source told Reuters.
Madrid region head Isabel Diaz Ayuso opposes the restrictions and has launched a legal appeal. She is worried about economic damage and accuses the central government of exceeding its prerogatives by ordering the measures.
In its appeal, the region argues that the measures do not adequately fight the pandemic and would cost 750 million euros ($879 million) per week to the local economy. Restaurants, gyms and shops are having capacity cut by half.
With 859 cases per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, the Madrid area is Europe’s worst hotspot.
Spain has recorded a total of 778,607 coronavirus cases, more than any other Western European nation, with almost 32,000 fatalities. Daily deaths are now around their highest levels since early May – an average of 78 a day in the last week – but far below the late March record of nearly 900.
(Reporting by Belen Carreno, Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Andrew Cawthorne)