CORONAVIRUS

Madrid to restrict numbers at social events and increase distancing in bars and restaurants

The central Health Ministry reported 1,200 new coronavirus cases in the region on Thursday, with a further 2,859 added to the historical series

Teaching staff wait in line for coronavirus tests on Wednesday in central Madrid.
Teaching staff wait in line for coronavirus tests on Wednesday in central Madrid.VICTOR SAINZ

From Monday, social meetings in the Madrid region between those who do not share the same home will be limited to 10 people, both in public and in private. What’s more, the capacity for funeral homes will be lowered from 75% to 60% of the usual limit, while the maximum number of mourners permitted at burials and cremations will be 50 when outdoors and 25 indoors. These are some of the new restrictions announced on Friday by Madrid’s health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero, in a bid to bring down rising coronavirus infections in the region, which has once again become the epicenter of the ongoing health crisis in Spain.

Under the new measures, the number of attendees at religious ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms and communions will also be limited to 60% of the total capacity, with open bars and dance floors prohibited.

In the region’s bars and restaurants, meanwhile, capacity at counters will be limited to 50%, while for inside dining the percentage will remain the same as it is currently, at 75%. On sidewalk cafés, meanwhile, the 1.5-meter social distance will be measured between the chairs of each table or group of tables, and not between each table, as was the case until now.

Madrid regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso has described the new measures as “very painful” and “very difficult” to adopt

The central Health Ministry reported 1,200 new coronavirus cases in Madrid on Thursday, with 2,859 added to the historical series. It is also the region with the highest number of coronavirus patients in its hospitals, with 407, and the territory of Spain that reported the most Covid-19 deaths in the last week, with 73. In the last seven days, 22 new outbreaks have been reported and there are already 225 critical patients in intensive care units (ICUs).

The figures have prompted the regional government of premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), to impose these stricter measures, which will be revised every 15 days. “This is a moment that’s marked by the rise in cases, and the return to schools, universities and the workplace, all of which involve greater mobility and more use of public transportation,” said Ruiz Escudero on Friday.

The health chief added that there are plans for each of the aforementioned settings, but did not announce anything beyond what has already been implemented, such as the use of masks on public transportation and a limit to the number of passengers per square meter. “These decisions will be linked to ‘Operation Return’,” he said, in reference to the restarting of regular routines after the traditional August break. Operation Return, however, began on Tuesday, September 1.

Speaking earlier on Friday, during a radio interview with state broadcaster RNE, regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso detailed a number of the measures that would be introduced, describing them as “very painful” and “very difficult” to adopt.

The political leaders of nearby regions have blamed visitors from Madrid for many of their own coronavirus outbreaks

In line with comments made on Thursday by Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa, Ayuso ruled out the need to confine the Madrid region, and also rejected that she was being pressured by her opposite numbers in neighboring regions Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León. The premiers in those territories have blamed visitors from Madrid for many of their coronavirus outbreaks, with one going so far as to describe the region as a “radioactive viral bomb.”

Ayuso admitted that these steps backward toward the deescalation phases implemented earlier this year by the central government during the state of alarm would damage many sectors of the region’s economy, but promised assistance without entering into further detail.

The politician also claimed that what is happening in Madrid, which accounts for a third of all positive infections in Spain, is the same “as is happening in all of the European capitals.” The infection rates in Madrid, however, far outstrip those in other equivalent cities at the current time. In Madrid, for example, the incidence of cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last seven days is currently 211.09 compared to 114.18 in Paris. On Thursday, Germany reported 1,311 new cases nationwide according to Health Ministry data. On the same day, Madrid alone reported 1,200 infections.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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