After seeing the number of coronavirus infections exceed 2,000 in the Madrid region, causing 86 deaths, the regional government led by Popular Party (PP) politician Isabel Díaz Ayuso ordered all stores to close on Friday, apart from those selling foodstuffs.
The measure also affects cinemas, nightclubs, concert venues, theatres, gaming houses, casinos, theme parks, gyms and cocktail bars. Restaurants, cafés and bars will also have to close, but they will be able to deliver food to people’s homes or sell it for consumption off site.
As with the closure of schools in the region, this latest measure will be in place until March 26
Supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stores, fishmongers, butchers, bakers, pharmacies, gas stations, tobacconists and newsstands will be open, as well as the food sections of department stores.
Earlier this week the Madrid region ordered the closure of all schools, kindergartens and universities in the region, a measure that affected 1.5 million students of all ages. As with that step, this latest closure will be in place until March 26, although the date could be extended if necessary.
By Friday, the Madrid authorities still did not deem necessary the partial or complete lockdown of Madrid
Hours after Madrid announced these latest measures, the regional premier of the northwestern Galicia region, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, also declared a state of emergency, and ordered the closure of all stores with the same exceptions as in Madrid.
By Friday, the Madrid authorities still did not deem necessary the partial or complete lockdown of Madrid, and premier Díaz Ayuso is not keen to shut down public transport, according to sources with knowledge of her plans. However, this could change on Saturday when the Cabinet approves a state of alarm, granting the central government greater powers to deal with the ongoing crisis.
“If the public is not aware that we have to stay at home and that we are going to go through two or three very difficult weeks, it’s going to be very difficult to contain the virus,” said deputy premier Ignacio Aguado in a television interview on Friday. “If we have to take more drastic measures, we will do so.”
The deputy premier, who is from the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, went on to call on the prime minister to take greater action. “The government needs to take more forceful measures, measures that affect the mobility of people, he has to take the bull by the horns and take this virus seriously in the whole country,” he said. “Even if we close the 66 freeways in Madrid that go to other provinces, this will be no use if measures aren’t taken from the Spanish government. Closing [Madrid] Barajas airport, suspending train services and closing the ring roads falls exclusively to the ministry. If the decision is taken, we will respect it and it will have to be rolled out to the whole country. I am calling on Mr Sánchez not to let the days pass knowing that the progression of the contagion curve is mathematical.”
For his part, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, yesterday approved an orange-level municipal emergency plan, giving the local emergency services more powers to ensure that restrictions are complied with.
Martínez-Almeida pointed out yesterday that child’s play parks are closed and that while large green spaces such as the Retiro Park have not so far been shut, large groups of people will not be able to congregate in public places. “Stay at home, it’s the best way that we have to avoid contagion and to limit this to three weeks and not more time,” he said in an interview with Spanish TV channel Antena 3.
The regional government is working to increase the medical care available, by converting hotels and care homes into temporary hospitals. Health staff have reported that they are “exhausted” and have also expressed their concern over shortages of materials.
El Corte Inglés closes
The Spanish department store chain El Corte Inglés announced on Friday that it would be closing all of its stores from Saturday in the Madrid and Basque Country regions, apart from those selling foodstuffs. Its chain of Supercor minimarts will also be open. If this measure is eventually rolled out to the rest of Spain, this could entail the temporary suspension of 80,000 work contracts, although the retail giant is yet to clarify the impact that its closures could have and the measures that it will adopt for its staff.
Fast-food chain Burger King also announced on Friday that it would be closing its 800 establishments across peninsular Spain. The firm employs 17,000 people, and their future is also unclear. The restaurants will continue to deliver food to people’s homes.
Spanish pizza chain Telepizza will also close all of its own restaurants in Spain today, and has recommended that its franchise partners do the same out of collective responsibility. Telepizza will also still offer home deliveries.
Major fashion brands have also announced closures. Inditex, the Spanish group that owns Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe, will close all establishments in Madrid, La Rioja, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro. The remainder of the group’s stores will open for a limited time, from 10am to 6pm.
English version by Simon Hunter.