Madrid on lockdown after Spanish Government uses emergency powers to override Judges' ruling


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A court in Madrid has rejected strict new lockdown laws imposed on the Spanish capital by the government last week to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Ministry banned 4.8 million people in the city from leaving their local areas except for essential business on Friday.

But regional government chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso opposed the order, saying it would ravage the region's economy, and that the ministry had no power to impose such curbs.

The Madrid regional court sided with her in its ruling, calling the restrictions an 'interference by public authorities in citizens' fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it.'

People queue for a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, last Thursday - the day before the quashed government's restrictions on movement came into force

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (left) speaks during the bilateral press conference with Regional President of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso (right) following a meeting in Madrid last month

R-RATE: The R-rate in Madrid is below 1.00 at 0.91 - this means that infections are not multiplying

INFECTIONS: A graph showing the first and second waves of outbreak in Madrid - it should be noted that the higher number of cases does not correlate with more deaths because the capacity for testing is now much greater

The ruling means that police won't be able to fine people for leaving their municipalities without a justification.

However, it has added to confusion over whether residents of Madrid can travel to other parts of Spain for this weekend's national holiday celebrations.

Other restrictions not affected by the ruling include a six-person cap on gatherings and limits to restaurant, bar and shop capacity and opening hours.

Madrid has been at the centre of a political impasse between Spain's national and regional authorities that has irked many people, who see more partisan strategy taking place than real action against the pandemic.

The two sides were meeting later Thursday.

The region has a 14-day infection rate of 591 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, more than twice Spain's national average of 257 and five times the European average rate of 113 for the week ending September 27.

However, the R-rate for Madrid - that is the rate of infection - remains below the crucial figure of 1.00 and stands at 0.91 today after it rose to more than 1.50 in July.

A figure higher than 1.00 means that infections are multiplying.

In an initial reaction from the government - which can appeal the ruling - Health Minister Salvador Illa said he had not yet had time to study it.

'We will take the legal decisions that best protect health. We are sure that the Community of Madrid will agree with this approach. We do not care much about anything but citizens' health,' he told a parliamentary committee without specifying further.

Madrid's regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso at the Madrid assembly on Thursday (left) and Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa (right) before the Health Commission

Police control motorists at a checkpoint in Madrid on Monday after the health ministry imposed its new measures on Friday

Ministers had approved the new rules in an attempt to bring infection rates in Madrid down, making it the first European capital to head back into a full lockdown.

Restaurant owner Sonny van den Holstein said last week that he was exasperated by the political wranglings and the crushing ramifications for his business.

'We have been eight months with masks and without nightclubs and parties, and there is still contagion. Then what kind of impact will these restrictions make?'

'People are confused, they hesitate to go out ... they are in fear,' he said.

Famous for its late-night carousing and usually lively tourist flow, Madrid's bars and restaurants had been ordered to shut two hours earlier than the previous 1am curfew, while restaurants, gyms and shops were told to cut capacity cut by half.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise throughout much of Europe - with France reporting its highest one-day total ever on Wednesday, with sharp spikes in Italy and Germany recorded

The measures broadened a confinement already in place in poorer parts of the city with high infection rates.

Conservative regional head Ayuso had tweeted her fury at the PM at the time, writing: 'From tomorrow one will be able to get to Madrid from Berlin but not from Parla (a periphery town south of Madrid). Thanks for the chaos, Pedro Sanchez.'

In its appeal, Parla argued that the measures did not adequately fight the pandemic and would cost 750 million euros (£683 million) per week to the local economy.

Prime Minister Sanchez said the only goal was saving lives and protecting health. 'All decisions are made based on scientists' citeria,' he said at a summit in Brussels.

According to WHO data published last week, the city had 850 cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest infection rates in Europe.

The Madrid region had 741 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to October 7, according to the World Health Organisation, making it Europe's second densest COVID-19 cluster after Andorra.

However, nationwide, Spain appears to be heading in the right direction.

The country's daily infection data is hard to analyse because of the way it is presented, but seven-day rolling averages show the number of infections has fallen from more than 11,000 per day two weeks ago, to around 9,500 per day now.

However, the government decided to override the court ruling and use its emergency powers to lock down Madrid, for two weeks.