The coronavirus pandemic continues to rapidly expand across Madrid. According to data published on Tuesday by the regional government, 16 health areas in the region have a Covid-19 incidence rate above 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite this, these hotspots are not subject to the new restrictions on mobility that came into effect in 37 basic health areas on Monday.
A basic health area is much smaller than a city district and can include several primary healthcare centers. There are around 286 basic health areas in the Madrid region, according to the regional health department.
The 16 health areas with an incidence rate above 1,000 cases but that are not under the new restrictions are: Lavapiés, Canillejas, García Noblejas, San Isidro, Rafael Alberti, Orcasitas, Vicálvaro-Artilleros, Campo de la Paloma, Villaamil (all located in the city of Madrid); Doctor Trueta and Miguel Servet (both in Alcorcón); Las Fronteras (Torrejón de Ardoz); Panaderas (Fuenlabrada); Villa del Prado (in the municipality of the same name); Alcalde Bartolomé González (Móstoles); and Sierra de Guadarrama (Collado Villalba).
While health experts have called for more drastic measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, the Madrid regional government has opted for more surgical and less-extensive restrictions
Although the incidence rate of Covid-19 was not the only data point used to decide which areas should be placed under selective lockdown, it was an important factor. Under the new restrictions on mobility, people in the affected areas are only allowed in and out for essential activities such as going to school or work, or to care for dependents. Public parks in the restricted zone have been closed, capacity at stores and other commercial establishments reduced to 50% and closing time set at 10pm, with the exception of pharmacies and gas stations.
In a radio interview with Onda Cero on Tuesday morning, Madrid premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso acknowledged that the restrictions may need to be extended to new areas and even to the entire region.
“I’m clear that [the measures] will have to be brought to more areas of Madrid and also other sectors,” she said. Speaking on Monday after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on how to control the situation, the Madrid premier also said: “If we see that the measures are working and we see that there is a worrying trend in other areas, we will apply them as well.”
Díaz Ayuso, however, ruled out making a decision on extending restrictions on Tuesday – a point Madrid’s regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero appeared to contradict.
“Normally we release the weekly [epidemiological] report on Tuesday, meaning that over the course of today we will be assessing if one area needs to be extended or if another type of decision needs to be made,” he said in the interview with Onda Cero.
It was yet another example of the tense relationship between health experts and politicians in the regional government. While the former have called for more drastic measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, the latter have opted for more surgical and less-extensive restrictions in the hopes of curbing contagion while protecting the economy.
Residents recommended to stay at home
Meanwhile, Health Minister Salvador Illa recommended on Tuesday that all residents in Madrid stay at home in a bid to curb contagion in the region, which is the hardest hit by the pandemic in Europe.
“We would recommend Madrileños restrict their movement as much as possible in the coming days, that they scrupulously respect measures from the regional health authority, restrict non-essential travel and limit contact to the closest cohabitants,” Illa said in a radio interview with Cadena SER.
Minutes later, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, backed the health minister’s suggestions in a separate interview with the same radio network. “I would recommend the same as Minister Illa,” he said. “At this point in time, limit all mobility that is not essential.”
English version by Melissa Kitson.