Measures restricting travel out of Spanish capital disputed; Germany declares 11 European risk zones; Northern Ireland records worst daily case toll
Residents of Spain’s infection hotspot, Madrid, are to be barred from leaving except on essential trips under new rules to fight the coronavirus resurgence, Spain’s government said on Wednesday.
But regional authorities said the decision had no legal basis, setting the stage for a political showdown in an area accounting for more than a third of Spain’s 133,604 new cases in the past two weeks.
“Madrid’s health is Spain’s health. Madrid is special,” the country’s health minister, Salvador Illa, told a news conference to announce the new regulations, due to come into force in days.
The capital city, home to more than 3 million people, and nine surrounding municipalities with at least 100,000 inhabitants each, are to see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, the government said.
People will be allowed to cross boundaries for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping, but not for leisure. Bars and restaurants will close from 11pm, widening a previous curfew of 1am, and parks and playgrounds will be shuttered.
Social gatherings will be limited to six people.
Madrid has 735 cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double Spain’s national rate. Spain has recorded a total of 769,188 cases – the highest in western Europe – and 31,791 deaths.
The conservative regional assembly had already enforced localised lockdowns in 45, mostly poor districts, often with a high immigrant population. But the wider restrictions announced by Illa see the Socialist-led central government override the regional authority after weeks of fighting over what should be done.
“The decision is not valid legally,” regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero repeatedly told a news conference of the lockdown plan, even though the local authorities had seemingly accepted some steps on Tuesday. “The Spanish government is in a hurry to intervene in Madrid but not to defeat the virus.”
Escudero did not specify what measures regional authorities may take to oppose the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Germany – which on Thursday saw its second-highest daily case rise since April, with 2,503 new cases – declared regions in 11 European countries to be areas where there was an elevated risk of exposure to coronavirus, while existing warnings about parts of Belgium were extended to cover the entire country.