CORONAVIRUS

Madrid announces new restrictions on social gatherings to curb coronavirus spread

Under the new measures, effective once the state of alarm expires on Saturday afternoon, meetings between midnight and 6am will be limited to people from the same household

Madrid regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero at a press conference on Friday.
Madrid regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero at a press conference on Friday.EUROPA PRESS/M.FERNÁNDEZ. POOL - / Europa Press

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The Madrid regional government on Friday announced new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus when the current state of alarm comes to an end on Saturday. Some of the measures will apply to the entire region, while others will exclusively affect 32 basic healthcare areas with a high incidence rate of the virus.

While Madrid stopped short of introducing a nighttime curfew – as three other Spanish regions have done – regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero announced “drastic restrictions on social activity, particularly on nighttime activity.”

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants will have to close by midnight and will not be able to accept new patrons after 11pm

Under the new rules that affect the entire region, socializing with people outside of one’s household will be prohibited between midnight and 6am, both in private and public spaces. Outside of these hours, social gatherings will be limited to a maximum of six people.

Bars and restaurants will have to close by midnight and will not be able to accept new patrons after 11pm – under the current state of alarm they must close by 11pm. Capacity will be limited to 50% in indoor restaurants and 75% at sidewalk cafes. Consumption at bar counters will also be prohibited. Capacity at theaters and cinemas, as well as indoor sports facilities, will be reduced to 50%. Parks and gardens will be shut between midnight and 6am.

“The Madrid government will continue with its plan against Covid-19, which is based on scientific criteria,” said Ruiz Escudero at a government press conference on Friday, adding “the next few weeks will be difficult.”

The Madrid government will also place 32 basic healthcare areas under a perimetral lockdown, meaning residents in these areas – which are smaller than a city district and can include several primary healthcare centers – will not be able to leave or enter unless it is for essential reasons, such as for work, to access care services or in the case of an emergency. In the affected areas, bars and restaurants will have to close by 10pm, children’s playgrounds will be closed and capacity in stores reduced to 50%. The new restrictions will come into effect on Monday and last for 14 days.

In the city of Madrid, they will apply to the following areas: Núñez Morgado (Chamartín district); Guzmán el Bueno (Chamberí), San Andrés, San Cristóbal and El Espinillo (Villaverde); Entrevías, Peña Prieta, Alcalá de Guadaira, Rafael Alberti, Numancia and Pozo del Tío Raimundo (Puente de Vallecas); Daroca (Ciudad Lineal); Vinateros-Torito, Pavones and Vandel (Moratalaz); Puerta del Ángel (Latina); Virgen de Begoña (Fuencarral); and Infanta Mercedes and Villaamil (Tetuán).

A total of 671,259 residents or 10% of the population of the Madrid region will be placed under a perimetral lockdown on Monday

Outside of Madrid, the perimetral lockdown will affect the healthcare areas of Collado Villalba (in the municipality of Collado Villalba); Guadarrama (Guadarrama); Majadahonda (Majadahonda); San Juan de la Cruz (Pozuelo de Alarcón); San Blas and Pintores (Parla); Colmenar Viejo Norte (Colmenar Viejo); Morata de Tajuña (Morata de Tajuña); Las Fronteras and Brújula (Torrejón de Ardoz); El Boalo (Manzanares el Real); Villarejo de Salvanes (Villarejo de Salvanes) and Colmenar de Oreja (Colmenar de Oreja).

These areas, which are home to 671,259 residents or 10% of the population of the Madrid region, account for 15.5% of all confirmed coronavirus cases detected in the last two weeks.

Before the Spanish government declared a state of alarm in the region on October 9 in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus, the Madrid administration had placed 45 healthcare areas under a perimetral lockdown – a move the central Health Ministry argued did not go far enough. In that instance, the region confined areas where the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants was above 1,000. In this case, the regional government has lowered the threshold to 500 cases. According to European guidelines, this figure should not exceed 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The question of how to contain the coronavirus pandemic has been the source of an ongoing dispute between the Spanish government, headed by a center-left coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos, and the Madrid government, run by a center-right alliance of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens), propped up by far-right Vox.

The Spanish government’s decision to declare a state of alarm in the region, which saw nine cities – including the Spanish capital – placed under a perimetral lockdown and subject to other restrictions on social gatherings, was fiercely opposed by the Madrid administration, which claimed the restrictions would hurt businesses.

Following Madrid’s announcement, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government “respected and supported” the new restrictions, although he argued the threshold for applying perimetral lockdown should be “lowered to at least 100” cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Support for curfew

Earlier in the week, Enrique Ruiz Escudero had said the Madrid government was considering introducing a nighttime curfew in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. When asked why this measure was not taken at a press conference on Friday, the regional health chief replied that it was up to the Spanish government to provide a legal framework for it to do so.

Three Spanish regions – Andalusia, Valencia and Castilla y León – will introduce curfews, but there is no national consensus on the move and the legal tools to do so are still a source of debate.

The Spanish Cabinet can approve a state of alarm for 15 days, after which time it needs to be extended by Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies. The central government does not have an absolute majority in Congress, meaning it would need the support of other parties to extend the emergency measure beyond this period.

Health Minister Illa said on Friday that the government is looking for “clear support” from Congress and regional governments that if it were to introduce a curfew under the state of alarm, it would have enough votes to keep the measure in place for longer than 15 days. The leader of the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), Inés Arrimadas, informed Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Friday that her party would support the decision.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Basque Country and Melilla have asked the central government to declare a state of alarm in their territories in order to introduce nighttime curfews.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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