Hundreds of residents in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Spain’s capital Madrid have protested what they call discrimination ahead of new lockdown measures to stem an increase in Covid-19.
Restrictions on movement and gatherings begin Monday and affect 850,000 people, many of whom live in areas with low incomes and higher immigrant populations.
Protesters said they felt abandoned and called for better health arrangements.
Spain has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe.
Madrid is once again the most affected region. On Sunday, peaceful protests took place in 12 of 37 districts affected by the new restrictions.
In Vallecas, a district in the south with one of the highest infection rates in the capital, residents said the health system was crippled and they felt stigmatized and feared the new restrictions would rob them of them. of income.
Some chanted “Vallecas is not a ghetto” while the banners said “No to segregation” and “No to a class lockdown”.
“It’s illogical that you can go and do things in richer areas, but you can’t do the same in Vallecas. There is the same risk of contagion. They are discriminatory, ”Begona Ramos, a 56-year-old resident, told Reuters. agency.
In a video posted on Twitter, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said the announced restrictions did not discriminate against the poor, adding: “There are no first-class residents. and second-class residents… We need to be together at this time. “
Residents will only be able to leave their area to go to work, school or for treatment. Social gatherings in their area will be limited to six, public parks will be closed, and commercial businesses will have to close before 10 p.m.
Madrid’s regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero has said if these measures do not reduce the number of infections, a city-wide lockdown could follow. “If it is necessary to close Madrid, we will do it,” he said in an interview with ABC newspaper (in Spanish).
Protesters also called for the resignation of Madrid regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who has been criticized for saying “the immigrant lifestyle” was partly responsible for the rise in infections.
She is expected to meet Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday. Despite the worsening situation, he ruled out a second national lockdown to stem the virus.
According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, the country has confirmed more than 640,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including nearly 120,000 in the first two weeks of September. The country has reported more than 30,000 deaths.