Spain’s Socialist-led government invoked a state of emergency on Friday to impose a partial lockdown on Madrid, one of Europe’s worst COVID-19 hot spots, state TV said.
The move escalates a standoff between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government and the conservative-led Madrid regional chief who believes the curbs are illegal, excessive and disastrous for the local economy.
Many of the 3.8 million people affected in the capital city and nine satellite towns are bemused and angry.
“I feel bad because I don’t know how to act, what to do, if I’m doing things right or wrong, and I feel totally misruled by our politicians who are just not up to the job,” said retiree Jesus Doria, 64.
Following a Health Ministry order, Madrid authorities last week reluctantly barred all non-essential travel in and out of the city and other nearby towns. The region had 723 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to Oct. 8, according to the World Health Organization, making it Europe’s second densest cluster after Andorra.
But instead of a blanket restriction, Madrid region chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso wants tailored restrictions in different neighbourhoods according to local contagion levels.
A Madrid court sided with her on Thursday, effectively suspending the restrictions and prompting the government’s response with an emergency order.
The court called the restrictions “interference by public authorities in citizens’ fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it.”
Spain reported 12,423 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the national tally up to 848,324 — the highest in Western Europe. Deaths rose by 126 to 32,688.