Madrid will become the first European capital to head back into lockdown following new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Spanish government
Some 4.8 million residents in the Spanish capital will be barred from leaving the area after the city suffered one of the highest infection rates of any region in Europe, with 850 cases per 100,000 people according to the World Health Organization.
The new rules, which will start from 10pm on Friday, will see the city’s borders closed to non-essential travel, with parks and playgrounds shut, gatherings limited to six people and bars and restaurants ordered to close at 11pm.
The measures ordered by the Spanish health ministry come after Spain recorded a total of 789,932 coronavirus cases as of Friday- a rise of 11,325 since Thursday.
Residents in the Spanish capital of Madrid will be barred from leaving the area under the new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Government. Pictured: A traveller walks through Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas international airport.
Health workers from the Madrid Emergency Service (SUMMA) carry out antigen tests for residents in Vallecas, Madrid
Sonny van den Holstein, owner of Sanissimo restaurant, said: ”Madrilenos” were exasperated at political wrangling between the central and regional governments, and anxious about whether the measures would work.
‘We have been eight months with masks and without nightclubs and parties, and there is still contagion. Then what kind of impact will these restrictions make?’
‘People are confused, they hesitate to go out … they are in fear,’ he added, as a customer called to cancel a reservation.
The conservative-led Madrid area authority reluctantly complied with the order from the Socialist-led central government to ban travel except for school, work, health or shopping.
Famous for its late-night carousing and usually lively tourist flow, Madrid’s bars and restaurants must close at 11pm instead of a previous 1am curfew, while restaurants, gyms and shops are having capacity cut by half.
Gatherings of more than six people remain banned indoors and outdoors, but parks and playgrounds can this time stay open.
The measures widen a confinement already in place in poorer parts of the city with high infection rates.
Other busy European cities have tightened measures in recent days, including limiting numbers in restaurants and making face masks compulsory in more places but none have gone as far as Madrid.
The new lockdown will last at least 14 days and could be extended if needed.
A man looks at the arrivals screen at Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas international airport as the city prepares to go into a local lockdown
A team of health workers prepare to take swabs from people in Vallecas, Madrid, as the capital records a rising number of coronavirus cases
However Conservative regional head Isabel Diaz Ayuso has launched a legal challenge, fearing economic damage and accusing central government of exceeding its mandate by ordering the measures.
With Madrid’s international airport Barajas staying open, Diaz Ayuso tweeted her anger at the prime minister: ‘From tomorrow one will be able to get to Madrid from Berlin but not from Parla. Thanks for the chaos, Pedro Sanchez.’
In its appeal, Parla, a periphery town south of Madrid, argues that the measures do not adequately fight the pandemic and would cost 750 million euros ($879 million) per week to the local economy.
But Mr Sanchez said the only goal was saving lives and protecting health. ‘All decisions are made based on scientists’ citeria,’ he said at a summit in Brussels.
Under the new restrictions, the city’s borders closed to non-essential travel and gatherings will be limited to six people. Pictured: People queue for an antigen test in Vallecas, Madrid
With 850 cases per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, the Madrid area has Europe’s worst rate.
Spain recorded a total of 789,932 coronavirus cases as of Friday, a rise of 11,325 since Thursday. There have been 32,086 fatalities.
Daily deaths are now around their highest levels since early May but far below the late March record of nearly 900.
Last month Spain’s National Health Minister Salvador Illa said that the government was recommending tougher measures, including a partial lockdown, for the whole of Madrid and its residents.
He also said that the threshold of contagion incidence to decide which suburban town to confine should be lowered to 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which is roughly twice the national average.
Saying that ‘shortcuts were not valid,’ Mr Illa told reporters: ‘I don’t want to hide that very tough, complicated weeks are ahead of us, but we are going to succeed if we do what we need to do.’
However the leader of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso rejected calls for a new lockdown in the Spanish capital and said ‘the solution is not a total confinement’ and demanded more help from the Spanish government.