Coronavirus: Spain orders Madrid lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar

Residents in Madrid will be banned from leaving the city, except on essential trips, under strict new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Spanish government.

Currently a hotspot for infection, the Madrid region accounts for more than a third of the 133,604 cases diagnosed in Spain over the past two weeks.

Madrid has 735 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double the national rate.

Under the new measures, the capital city’s borders will be closed to outsiders for non-urgent visits.

Another nine cities in the metropolitan area are also affected.

“Madrid’s health is Spain’s health. Madrid is special,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference to announce the new regulations, which are due to come into force in the coming days. He did not say exactly when.

People will be allowed to cross municipal boundaries to go to work or school, visit the doctor or go shopping, but must remain within the city for leisure activities.

Other measures include the closure of bars and restaurants at 11pm, from a previous curfew of 1am, as well as the closure of public parks and playgrounds.

Social gatherings will be limited to six people.

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

But the new wider restrictions see the central government overriding the regional government after weeks of fighting between the two authorities over what should be done in the city.

This has taken the political polarisation that has characterised much of the response to the pandemic over the past months to new heights, exasperating communities.

Spain has recorded a total of 769,188 cases, more than any other nation in Western Europe. The total death toll stands at 31,791.

“We must be conscious that there are tough weeks, very tough, ahead,” Mr Illa said.

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