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Lock down or face state of emergency, Spanish government tells Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) – Madrid must enforce travel restrictions ordered by the health ministry to limit novel coronavirus outbreaks or the national government will impose a state of emergency that would force it to comply, the government said late on Thursday.



a man walking in the snow: Passengers arrive at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Madrid


© Reuters/SERGIO PEREZ
Passengers arrive at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Madrid

In the latest escalation of tensions between the two administrations, the government said it would hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Friday morning to decree the state of emergency if Madrid does not impose the restrictions or request intervention.

Following a Health Ministry order, Madrid authorities reluctantly barred all non essential travel in and out of the city and nine surrounding towns last Friday to curb the spread of COVID-19 in one of Europe’s worst virus hotspots.

But a Madrid regional court on Thursday annulled the measures, ruling the government had overstepped its mandate and the restrictions interfered with fundamental human rights.[

Declaring a state of emergency – the same legal framework that underpinned Spain’s tough lockdown during the first wave of the virus – would grant the national government the powers to restrict movement.

According to a government statement, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told Madrid’s conservative regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso that she must either enforce the restrictions or request a state of emergency, or the central government would unilaterally impose one.

“In any of the three cases the measures would be exactly the same as those already being applied, the only thing that would change would be the legal instrument,” the statement said.

Ayuso said regional officials would discuss alternatives on Friday morning.

“We hope to agree on a solution that benefits citizens and provides clarity,” she said in a statement.

Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party, said he would call a nationwide protest on Monday if a new state of emergency was passed.

“Spaniards won’t let themselves be imprisoned again,” he tweeted.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Belén Carreño; editing by Grant McCool and Richard Pullin)

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‘You Cannot Lock Down Everybody’ Madrid Tells Spanish Government in COVID Spat | World News

MADRID (Reuters) – “You cannot lock down everybody,” the chief of the Madrid region said on Thursday, pushing back against the Spanish government’s plan to confine the capital city to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The health ministry said late on Wednesday that the central government was overriding regional authorities and would impose a lockdown of the city of over 3 million people and some surrounding towns in the coming days.

The ministry published the decision in an official journal and said regional and local authorities would have 48 hours to comply once a separate official order was published, though it did not say when that would happen.

But Madrid region chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso rejected the move, saying the committee that took the decision had no legal authority to do so without a consensus.

“You cannot lock down everybody,” Diaz Ayuso said on esRadio. “I’m sure the Madrid (region) plan is the best: quick tests, quarantines and life goes on.”

Diaz Ayuso said on Thursday she would challenge the health ministry order in courts amid a widening rift between the Socialist-led central government and conservative-led regional administration on the response to the pandemic.

“Legally, we are evaluating with lawyers of the region, how we can do things,” she said.

Other regions such as northeastern Catalonia, Andalusia and Galicia have also opposed the new restrictions.

The new curbs would apply to the capital city, with more than 3 million people, and nine surrounding municipalities with populations of at least 100,000 each.

The ten municipalities would see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, with only those travelling for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping allowed to cross. A curfew for bars and restaurants moved to 11 p.m. from 1 a.m.

Madrid has 735 cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double the national rate in the country, which has has recorded 769,188 cases – the highest in Western Europe – and 31,791 deaths.

The region has imposed a partial lockdown in 45 mainly poorer areas.

(Writing by Inti Landauro and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Spain to lock down capital, angering regional government

By Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander

MADRID (Reuters) – Residents of infection hotspot Madrid are to be barred from leaving except on essential trips under new rules to fight the coronavirus resurgence, Spain’s government said on Wednesday.

But regional authorities said the decision had no legal basis, setting the stage for a political showdown in an area accounting for more than a third of Spain’s 133,604 new cases in the past two weeks.

“Madrid’s health is Spain’s health. Madrid is special,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference to announce the new regulations, due to come into force in days.

The capital city, with more than 3 million people, and nine surrounding municipalities with at least 100,000 inhabitants each, are to see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, the government said.

People would be allowed to cross boundaries for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping, but not for leisure.

Other measures include the closure of bars and restaurants at 11 p.m., from a previous curfew of 1 a.m., as well as shutting parks and playgrounds.

Social gatherings will be limited to six people.

Madrid has 735 cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double Spain’s national rate.

The conservative regional assembly had already enforced localised lockdowns in 45, mostly poor districts, often with a high immigrant population.

But the wider restrictions announced by Illa see the Socialist-led central government override the regional authority after weeks of fighting over what should be done.

“The decision is not valid legally,” regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero repeatedly told a news conference of the lockdown plan, even though the local authorities had seemingly accepted some steps on Tuesday. “The Spanish government is in a hurry to intervene in Madrid but not to defeat the virus.”

Escudero did not specify what measures regional authorities may take to oppose the lockdown.

Political polarisation over the pandemic has exasperated people in Spain, which has recorded 769,188 cases – the highest in Western Europe – and 31,791 deaths.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Kirsten Donovan and Andrew Cawthorne)

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