COVID-19: Spanish government declares state of alert in Madrid region

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MADRID | Faced with an explosion in the number of coronavirus cases in the Madrid region, the Spanish government has declared a “state of alert” in the capital and in several neighboring towns, in order to restore their partial closure, canceled the day before by a decision of justice.

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This state of alert – which is equivalent to a state of health emergency – entered into force with immediate effect and for a period of 15 days, said the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, after a meeting. two-hour special meeting of the Council of Ministers.

“Protecting the health of Madrilenians’ We must take measures to protect the health of Madrilenians” “and prevent the explosion of coronavirus cases from spreading to the rest of the country, he said.

Police forces and the “Guardia Civil” (equivalent to the gendarmerie) were to be deployed without delay on the main roads to control the entries and exits of the capital.

Spain, with some 850,000 cases and nearly 33,000 deaths since Thursday evening, is one of Europe’s poor performers when it comes to fighting the pandemic, and Madrid is, by far, the city where the situation is the worst.

The decision of the leftist government of socialist Pedro Sanchez was taken despite fierce opposition from the regional authorities in Madrid, led by the Popular Party (conservative opposition).

The government had to act because “the president of the autonomous community of Madrid has decided to do nothing,” said Mr. Illa of Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who tried to the end to convince the government not to do anything. not proclaim the state of alert.

The main purpose of this decision was to restore the partial closure of Madrid and several neighboring municipalities in force since October 2, but which had been invalidated Thursday, to everyone’s surprise, by a Madrid court.

Since the evening of October 2, a partial closure of the capital and nine neighboring localities was in place, imposed by the Ministry of Health – therefore by the central government – on the regional authorities of Madrid, who do not want it. because they consider this measure both counterproductive and harmful to the economy.

Since that date, the more than four million people concerned no longer have the right to leave their municipality, except to go to work or study, to go to a doctor or to a court or for a humanitarian emergency.

But the police could not impose a fine on offenders without validation by the courts.

It is this validation which was refused Thursday by the Superior Court of Madrid, which, without ruling on the merits of the partial closure to combat the spread of the coronavirus, had considered that it was not based on any legal basis, since resulting from a government decree.

By virtue of the Spanish Constitution, the regions alone are competent in matters of health.

The move was a terrible setback for Sanchez, who accuses the regional government of failing to take the necessary steps to control the outbreak.

The approach of a three-day long weekend due to the national holiday, which will be celebrated on Monday, made the situation even more delicate, with the government wanting at all costs to prevent Madrilenians from moving en masse out of the capital .

The situation in Madrid is “very worrying”, commented Thursday Mr. Sanchez after learning of the court ruling, clearly indicating that it would not stop there.

In the evening, he had twice called Ms. Diaz Ayuso to address what amounted to a real ultimatum.

Mr Illa claimed that the president of the Madrid region had tried to buy time, forcing the central government to rush matters and act unilaterally.


At a press conference even as the Council of Ministers was taking place, the regional government’s health adviser, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, reiterated the opposition of the Madrid authorities to the proclamation of the state of alert, speaking even “blackmail” from the central government.

Mr. Ruiz Escudero also said that the more targeted measures taken last month by the regional government, and which mainly targeted working-class neighborhoods in the south of the city where the number of cases sometimes exceeds the dizzying level of 1,000 per 100,000 people on 14 days, had begun to bear fruit

According to official figures, the rate of contamination in the Madrid region currently stands at 564 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, compared to 257 for the whole country, a rate well above the average for the country. EU.

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