Spain’s government published a decree extending drastic restrictions across the capital on Thursday, with partial lockdown measures to come into play within 48 hours, despite fierce opposition from Madrid’s regional authorities.
After a tense standoff lasting days, the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday evening said it had reached an agreement with most of Spain’s regions on the imposition of tough restrictions in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly.
Currently, that is only Madrid, which is struggling with a rate of 780 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain — which in itself is the highest in the European Union.
But the region’s rightwing government, which voted against the move, denounced the measures as “not legally enforceable” and said it was looking into a legal challenge.
The government and the regions “cannot impose anything on us and certainly no like this,” Madrid leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso told EsRadio on Thursday.
“What we will do is go to the courts as we did during the rollback to defend the legitimate interests of Madrid’s residents,” she later told MPs in the regional parliament.
Since the national state of emergency ended on June 21, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
According to the decree, the agreement “is obligatory for all regions.. within a maximum of 48 hours”.
Concretely, it allows for the imposition of tough restrictions across the whole capital, which is home to 3.2 million people, and nine other towns, in line with those already in force in several badly hit where people cannot leave their neighbourhood except for school, work or medical reasons.
Residents are not confined to their homes and can circulate freely within their own area although parks are closed and bars and restaurants have to operate with limited opening hours and seating capacity.
Spain is currently fighting a second wave of the virus, which has now killed more than 31,000 people and infected close to 760,000 in what is the highest infection rate within the European Union.