The Spanish government and authorities in Madrid are locked in a standoff over how to deal with the second wave of Covid-19 in and around the capital, with more than a third of the country’s 7,16,481 cases diagnosed.
As the number of infections continues to rise in Spain – by far the hardest hit in Western Europe – Madrid is at the center of a medical, political and economic dispute.
The conservative regional government placed 45 districts in partial lockdown affecting just over a million people in Madrid, but rejected calls from Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government to place the entire capital in limited custody.
On Saturday, National Health Minister Salvador Illa issued another call for a citywide lockdown and urged Madrid authorities to “listen to the science” and put politics aside.
“We are very concerned about the situation in the Madrid region, as there is a grave risk to health care not only for the people there, but also in the surrounding areas,” said Illa.
“The time has come to take appropriate measures and control the epidemic in Madrid in order to flatten the curve.”
Illa said towns and cities with more than 500 cases per 100,000 people should be locked down. As of Friday evening, the Madrid region had recorded 721.73 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
The average across Spain is 319.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past two weeks, the UK recorded 96.2 cases per 100,000 people, France 229.1 and Belgium 160.7.
But the regional government, led by Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the conservative People’s Party, is refusing to implement the recommended lockdown.
The regional minister of justice said that there was no need for “health care intervention” from the central government, adding that the regional authorities were exercising their health powers “with responsibility and good judgment.”
Ayusu is desperate to avoid another major shutdown and the associated economic damage. She also questioned the need to extend the national lockdown in May, saying, “People are run over every day but that does not mean we are banning cars.”
According to reports, Ayuso said Madrid would only be closed if every Spanish town and city that met Ella’s criteria followed suit – and if the central government ensured Covid tests at Madrid’s Barajas airport and in railway stations in the region.
With protests erupting in favelas where many feel unfairly trapped, doctors have said urgent measures are needed before Madrid’s ICUs begin to collapse. At present, 40.12% of ICU beds are occupied by Covid patients, and some hospitals are already operating beyond their capacity. The average Covid ICU occupancy in Spain is 17.17%.
The average number of new cases reported each day is now higher than it was at the first peak of the virus at the end of March, when Spain recorded 9,222 new cases in one day. Much of the increase is due to the massive increase in testing – so far, Spain has performed more than 8.5 million Covid tests.
The death rate is much lower than it was six months ago, when 849 deaths were reported in one day. But the numbers are rising, with 475 deaths recorded during the week until last Friday.
On Friday, Yolanda Fuentes, who resigned from her position as Director of Public Health in Madrid in May after disagreements with the Ioso administration, He posted a clip on Twitter from the 1997 movie Titanic. The video, which shows the captain cruising around his sunken ship while playing the stringed quadruple on board, was accompanied by the hashtag #BuenaSuerta (good luck).
The Spanish government declined to comment on news of its willingness to intervene in Madrid. On Sunday, the country’s foreign minister said Spain had been operating “as a canary in the coal mine” for the rest of Europe because it had loosened restrictions ahead of its neighbors.
“A lot of the numbers corresponding to me in other countries ask me what we’re doing because they’re seeing the numbers get worse in their countries as well,” Arancha Gonzalez-Laya told El Confidencial.
The injury rate rises when you open space for freedom of movement. It is higher in Spain than in other countries, perhaps because we opened up earlier than others and gave ourselves less time between de-escalation measures and reopening. “