MADRID: Madrid residents are set to be barred from leaving the city except on essential trips under new coronavirus restrictions announced by the Spanish government on Wednesday (Sep 30).
The city's borders will also be closed to outsiders for non-necessary visits under the new measures for large municipalities with high coronavirus infection rates. Another nine cities in the metropolitan area will also be 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, according to the agreement.
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.
Currently a hotbed 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 per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double the national rate
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 capital 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 inhabitants.
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," Illa said.
Madrid's regional authorities, which had firmly opposed a city-wide lockdown, were due to react later on Wednesday.