Tag: regional

Madrid regional chief hits out at Spanish government Covid measures

The woman at the heart of the dispute over one of Europe’s coronavirus hotspots says Spain’s government is exacerbating the crisis and depicts herself as a bulwark against socialist revolutionaries in its ranks. 

To her supporters, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, head of Madrid’s regional government and perhaps the second most powerful elected official in the country, is the voice of resistance against a dangerous leftwing government running roughshod over democratic institutions and devastating the motor of the Spanish economy. 

To her detractors, the leader of the region of 6.6m people is a rightwing ideologue who has been far too slow in responding to some of the highest infection rates in Europe.

Ms Díaz Ayuso, a 41-year-old who took office last year after a career largely spent in communications for her centre-right People’s party, portrays the regional administration as one of the most important checks on what she says is an “authoritarian” central government. 

In an interview with the Financial Times, she accused Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition allies in the radical left Podemos grouping of shattering “the consensus of the two Spains [of left and right]” and trying to transform the country into a place where only “one form of thinking is allowed”.

The clash comes just three weeks after Mr Sánchez and Ms Díaz Ayuso held a summit-style meeting and promised to work with each other. It highlights how polarised politics have overwhelmed public health messaging; the different weights that Spain’s left and right give to resuming economic activity; and how the country’s complicated decentralised system of government has struggled to contend with the crisis.

“It is more of a political problem, not a health one, because Madrid was doing things well,” Ms Diaz Ayuso said of the tensions over coronavirus curbs in her region, half of whose inhabitants live in the capital city. 

“Just when we had applied sensible and fair measures that were showing results, the Spanish government rapidly decided to change its discourse and impose a very different model of lockdown that is very bad for the economy, does not solve the problem and has been rejected by the courts.”

Mr Sánchez’s government contends that it had no alternative but to use emergency powers to impose a ban on people entering and leaving the capital city and nine nearby municipalities — because of what it depicts as the inadequacies of Ms Díaz Ayuso’s measures in a region that for weeks was the most infected in Europe.

While the infection rate has fallen significantly in Madrid since the end of last month, it remains twice the average in Spain, itself one of the worst affected countries in Europe.

Mr Sánchez’s officials add that they had to act quickly after a court had struck down its previous controls just ahead of a holiday weekend. 

“The business of a vital region like Madrid, with 6.6m citizens, which is also

Continue reading

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)

Source Article

Continue reading