More Madrid restrictions

The Madrid regional government announced on Friday that it would extend the coronavirus mobility restrictions that currently affect 37 basic health areas in the region to eight new zones. Speaking at a press conference Madrid’s deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero said the move was aimed at “stopping the spread of the coronavirus” in the region, which has the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in Spain, with 746.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The restrictions will be applied to eight basic health areas that have an incidence rate of more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

From yesterday, Monday 28th September, residents in these areas will only be able to leave the restricted zones for essential business, such as going to school or work, or to care for dependents. Capacity at stores and other commercial establishments will be set at 50 percent and closing time at 10pm with the exception of pharmacies, gas stations and health centres. Bar service will be prohibited and public parks in the affected zones will also be closed. The measures will last for at least two weeks. A total of 45 health areas, which are home to more than one million residents, have now been confined.

Residents who break the restrictions on mobility could face fines of between €600 and €600,000, according to the current health protocols. Zapatero also recommended that all residents in the Madrid region stay at home: “Our main concern is slowing the virus. We are recommending that all non-essential travel be avoided.”

In an unusual turn of events, Health Minister Salvador Illa held an unexpected press conference at the same time that Zapatero was speaking, announcing that he had expected more ambitious measures from the Madrid government, such as reducing the capacity at sidewalk cafes across the region. Illa also called on the Madrid government to confine all areas with an incidence rate above 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Madrid regional government has not ruled out introducing further measures in the coming weeks, such as ordering all commercial establishments in the region to close by 10pm – not just in the 45 health areas under selective confinement.

Doctors from 62 of the region’s hospitals claim 95% of intensive care units (ICUs) are occupied by Covid-19 patients, the region’s primary healthcare system is stretched to the limit, and there are still not enough contact tracers to manage the crisis.

With more than 100,000 new infections since 1st August in the Madrid region, and 3,215 coronavirus patients in its hospitals, the regional administration is once again staring into the abyss of a combined health, economic and social crisis. According to experts, measures introduced so far by the Madrid region have arrived too late, and many believe that the lockdown of the entire city will be inevitable in just a few days.