Lockdown in Madrid as Europe tries to contain Covid-19 surge

Updated 10 Oct 2020

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Police prepare to stop vehicles at a control point in the Vallecas district of Madrid on October 9. — AP
Police prepare to stop vehicles at a control point in the Vallecas district of Madrid on October 9. — AP

MADRID: Spain’s government declared a state of emergency and a new partial lockdown for the virus-hit Madrid area on Friday after seeing its previous measures struck down in court, with the wrangling emblematic of the difficulties faced by governments around Europe.

While drastic restrictions imposed on citizens during lockdowns in March and April were largely accepted, governments are facing increased resistance as they try to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections at the start of autumn.

Europe surpassed 100,000 daily reported Covid-19 cases for the first time on Thursday, after countries such as Russia and United Kingdom saw no respite in the mounting number of infections every day in the past five days.

Cases throughout Europe have been steadily rising over the past week even as new infections in worst-affected countries such as India and Brazil have shown signs of slowing down.

The epicentre of the outbreak in the European region has moved to the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain and France which have reported at least over 10,000 cases each in the last three days.

The epicentre of the outbreak has moved to the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain and France

Russia reported its highest daily coronavirus cases ever since the last record in May on Friday, prompting Moscow authorities to mull closing bars and nightclubs.

In Madrid, restrictions from the central government barring people from leaving the city except for work, school or medical reasons have been loudly opposed by rightwing city authorities and were rejected by a regional court on Thursday.

In response, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the Socialist-led government would declare a state of emergency, giving it powers to re-impose the measures on 4.5 million people in and around the capital.

“Protecting the health of Madrid’s people is absolutely essential,” Illa said.

The resistance in Madrid echoes difficulties the French government faced last month when it shut bars and restaurants in the southern port of Marseille, where elected city and regional authorities reacted with fury.

Partial shutdowns have since been extended to Paris and other major urban areas, while another four regional cities were placed on maximum coronavirus alert on Thursday, meaning they will have to shut bars and limit public gatherings.

“The health situation in France, alas, is continuing to worsen,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told the nation in a live broadcast on Thursday evening.

In Britain, where around a quarter of the 67m population is living in areas under restrictions, a senior minister has admitted a sense of “frustration”.

“We know and we understand that in some of the places where we’ve imposed local restrictions, we haven’t yet seen the impact that we would like to have seen, and we understand that’s extremely frustrating to people in those areas,” Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, told Sky News on Thursday.

Mayors in several northern English towns, including Manchester, have threatened to defy the government.

Overall, the coronavirus has continued its progression around the world this week, with 315,000 new cases on average per day, or six per cent more than the previous week, according to a tally on Friday.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2020