Madrid backtracks on plan for targeted COVID-19 lockdowns

Madrid backtracks on plan for targeted COVID-19 lockdowns

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Madrid
FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers wearing protective masks push a patient on a stretcher near the emergency unit at 12 de Octubre hospital, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Madrid, Spain Aug 14, 2020. (REUTERS/Juan Medina)

MADRID: The local government of Madrid, the region of Spain hit hardest by the pandemic, on Thursday (Sep 17) backtracked on its plans to introduce targeted lockdowns in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases.

The region's deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, announced on Wednesday that the local health department was planning to confine people in areas with the highest incidence of the virus, without naming which neighbourhoods would be affected.

The announcement caused concern among residents of densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods in the south of Madrid which have a high rate of infections.

But on Thursday the justice minister in the Madrid regional government, Enrique Lopez, said the word confinement "generates anxiety" and he stressed that the government planned only to "reduce mobility and contacts" in areas with a high rate of infections but would not lock them down.

READ: Spain's COVID-19 tracing app tries to balance public health with privacy

"We need to send a message of calm to the population," he added during an interview with radio Onda Cero.

A source at the Madrid health department told AFP that a press conference would likely be held on Friday to outline the new measures, which would take effect on Saturday or Monday, depending on how early they could legally be implemented.

READ: Concern, relief as Spanish children return to school amid COVID-19

Spain has over 600,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 30,000 deaths from the respiratory disease, one of the world's highest tolls.

The Madrid region accounts for around one-third of the country's active COVID-19 cases.

"We must do whatever it takes to control the situation in Madrid," Health Minister Salvado Illa said during an interview with Spanish radio when asked about the Madrid region's plans to introduce new virus measures.

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Source: AFP/kv