Spanish government wants partial Madrid city lockdown, local authorities differ

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks wait at a bus stop at Usera neighbourhood, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Madrid, Spain, September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

September 25, 2020

MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government has recommended reimposing a partial lockdown on all of Madrid city to curb the spread of coronavirus after local authorities imposed restrictions on just some areas of the wider region, the health minister said on Friday.

“These are the minimum measures we have to take to control the spread of the virus in the city,” Salvador Illa told reporters.

Spain, one of the countries in Europe worst-affected by the pandemic, was under a draconian lockdown from March until May in which people could not leave their homes. The restrictions began to be lifted in stages and by region, and was totally lifted on June 21, but the pandemic has surged again in recent weeks.

The Madrid region authorities have ordered a lockdown in 45 areas, mainly the poorest ones, where the contagion rate is above 1000 cases per 100,000 people.

But in an apparent clash between the national government and regional authorities, Minister Illa announced his recommendations at a news conference at the same time as Madrid announced much softer measures which only cover some areas of the region.

Illa said that the Madrid regional authorities had the sole power to make this decision.

The recommendations for a new partial lockdown would ban people from travelling outside of the city but they will be able to leave their homes and to go to work and school. Bars will remain open, with certain restrictions.

The region has 6.7 million residents, of whom 3.2 million live in the capital city itself. It includes several other cities, and accounts for over a third of hospital admissions in Spain.

The number of diagnosed cases in Spain surpassed 700,000 on Thursday, the highest number in Western Europe. More than 31,000 people died from the disease.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo and Belen Carreño; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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