Europe’s worst infection hotspot Madrid heads for lockdown

A man gets his temperature checked before a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) antigen test in the working class neighbourhood of Vallecas, which has been under partial lockdown, at a cultural centre in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is to go into lockdown in coming days after the region’s leader reluctantly agreed on Thursday to obey a central government order to ban non-essential travel in the Spanish capital that is Europe’s worst COVID-19 hotspot.

The Madrid region has 859 cases per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), during a resurgence of the coronavirus in Spain, which was one of the worst-hit countries during the first wave.

Spain’s Socialist-led government – which puts cases in Madrid at 735 per 100,000 – decided late on Wednesday to impose a new lockdown on the city of more than 3 million people.

That infuriated the conservative-led local authority worried about the impact on livelihoods in a city famous for its bars, restaurants and bustle of tourists in normal times.

But Madrid region chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso told the regional assembly on Thursday she had no choice but to follow the lockdown – even though she would mount a legal challenge.

“This region is not in rebellion and will strictly comply with all the orders,” she said. “But yes, we will go to the courts … to stand up for the rights of the Madrilenos.”

Madrid and nine nearby municipalities will see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, with only travel for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping allowed. A curfew for bars and restaurants moved to 11 p.m. from 1 a.m.

The government dropped a plan to shut parks and playgrounds, though local authorities could do that later.

The Madrid region has until Friday evening to publish final details of the lockdown, including the start date.

Madrid’s COVID case load is double the national rate in Spain, which has recorded 769,188 cases – the highest in Western Europe – and 31,791 deaths.

The new curbs apply to any municipality in Spain of at least 100,000 inhabitants with more than 500 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days. So far, that only applies to parts of the Madrid region and one other town.

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