MADRID, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The Madrid region, one of the worst hit in Spain, is planning to announce on Friday restrictions on movement that could include targeted lockdowns in areas with high COVID-19 cases, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Madrid accounts for around one-third of active coronavirus cases in Spain, with a higher incidence in high-density and low-income neighbourhoods, mainly in the south of the capital.
"There will be decisions focused on restricting mobility," Antonio Zapatero, head of the COVID-19 response for the region, told reporters, adding the health department was considering locking down areas with the highest incidence of the virus.
"There has been a relaxation of behaviour that we cannot afford," he said, adding that people were organizing parties, drinking in the street and not respecting quarantine rules.
Since restrictions on movement were lifted and mass testing began in late June, infections have risen in Spain from a few hundred a day to thousands, outstripping other hard-hit nations such as Britain, Italy or France.
Spain's cumulative number of cases, at 603,167, is the highest in Western Europe, while the number of deaths exceeded 30,000.
On the streets of Madrid, some agreed with the regional government's plans.
"I think it is right because if not this will get worse," said Ines Diaz, a Madrid resident. "Many people are doing whatever they feel like, so I do think we need to have more measures."
The latest plan comes amid controversy in Spain over who is to blame for the increase in infections, with growing polarisation along party lines as well as regions and the central government pointing fingers at each other.
Adding to the tensions, Madrid's regional chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso said earlier this week that "the way of life of immigrants" was partly to blame for the increase in cases, attracting huge criticism.
"We condemn your words that promote a racist stigma on our communities", non-profit association SOS Racismo Madrid said on Twitter, adding that migrants usually have more precarious jobs, underprivileged housing and are more exposed to the virus.
Also controversial is the region's estimate, which it included in a report published on Tuesday, that around 40% of the active infections concern "people born outside Spain", a broad definition that includes migrants from non-EU countries, people with dual nationality and EU citizens.