The Spanish government has urged authorities in Madrid to tighten coronavirus restrictions throughout the city, warning of a “serious risk” to residents if they do not.
Madrid extended restrictions in Covid-19 hotspots on Friday but rejected calls for a city-wide lockdown.
Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa on Saturday said the current restrictions did not go far enough.
He said it was “time to act decisively” to control the pandemic.
“There is a serious risk for residents, for neighboring regions,” said Illa, calling on regional authorities in the capital to “put the health of citizens first” and impose a partial lockdown of any the city.
The Spanish regions are in charge of healthcare, so the central government does not have the power to impose the restrictions it prefers.
Madrid is again at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Spain, as it was during the first peak earlier this year. The country recorded 12,272 more cases on Friday, bringing the official total to 716,481, the highest number of infections in Western Europe.
Spain and many other countries in the northern hemisphere have experienced a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a stern warning about the resurgence of the virus in Europe and elsewhere as winter approaches.
European countries were seeing “a worrying increase in disease”, with “a slight increase in elderly deaths” that will inevitably increase, Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergency team, said on Friday.
Dr Ryan questioned whether European countries have “really exhausted all tools” at their disposal to prevent a second round of national lockdowns.
“Lockouts are almost a last resort – and to think that we are back in territory of last resort in September is a pretty disappointing thought,” Dr Ryan told reporters at WHO headquarters in Geneva. .
- Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic have all reported a sharp increase in new cases, reflecting the trend seen across Europe
- 14,412 new coronavirus infections were recorded in France on Saturday, almost as many as the country’s daily record of 16,096 set earlier this week
- Plans to close all bars and restaurants in the city of Marseille, in the south of France, have been postponed to Sunday evening, after protests
- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has issued a particularly grim warning about a second wave in the Netherlands, saying “the numbers look downright terrible”
- In the UK, police said they were ending a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Trafalgar Square in London because crowds had “broken” social distancing rules.
What is the situation in Madrid?
The Madrid region accounts for around a third of all cases and deaths in Spain. In recent weeks, coronavirus cases have risen sharply, putting pressure on the healthcare system as hospital admissions increase.
The Madrid region had the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in Spain on Friday, with a cumulative 746.2 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days, according to El Pais newspaper. Spain as a whole has a rate of around 320, according to the European CDC.
As the situation worsens, the Spanish government and the regional authorities in Madrid disagree on what to do next.
Madrid’s regional government has chosen not to lock down the entire city and surrounding area, but announced on Friday that it will extend movement restrictions to eight more districts, affecting around one million people.
Restrictions have now been imposed on 45 areas in some of Madrid’s poorest neighborhoods, leaving residents feeling abandoned, stigmatized and worried about loss of income, Reuters news agency reports.
From Monday, the inhabitants of these districts will be able to leave their area only to go to work, to school or to seek treatment. Social gatherings in each zone will be limited to six, public parks will be closed, and commercial businesses will have to close by 10 p.m.
However, the Spanish government has argued that these restrictions are not enough, recommending an end to all unnecessary movement through the city, among other measures.
Mr Illa called on regional officials to put aside political considerations and act on the basis of science.
“I want to repeat the call to measures [in Madrid] to review, to listen to science. Leave politics in the background. Prioritize the health of citizens, ”said Mr. Illa.