Spain’s government announced residents of the capital city would be barred from leaving except on essential trips under new rules to fight the coronavirus resurgence. But regional authorities said the decision had no legal basis after Madrid was hit by a third of the 133,604 new cases in the past two weeks.
Health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero told a news conference the decision was not valid legally and insisted the COVID-19 situation in Madrid was stabilising.
He said: “The situation is controlled.
“We have always anticipated the hospital capacity to contain this pandemic, and we’ve had several days for which the balance between discharges and admissions is favourable
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“The Spanish government is in a hurry to intervene in Madrid but not to defeat the virus.”
It comes after Health Minister Salvador Illa announced new regulations, due to come into force in days, saying: “Madrid’s health is Spain’s health. Madrid is special.”
The capital city, with more than 3 million people, and nine surrounding municipalities with at least 100,000 inhabitants each, are to see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits.
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The conservative regional assembly had already enforced localised lockdowns in 45, mostly poor districts, often with a high immigrant population.
But the wider restrictions announced by Mr Illa see the Socialist-led central government override the regional authority after weeks of fighting over what should be done.
Political polarisation over the pandemic has exasperated people in Spain, which has recorded 769,188 cases – the highest in Western Europe – and 31,791 deaths.
The town of Ibiza will also go into partial lockdown from Friday after the coronavirus contagion has spread quickly there in the past weeks.
The Balearic Island region said restrictions on residents’ mobility and activities will last 15 days.
The contagion rate in the town is three times as high as in the rest of the Balearic Islands.