Spains crisis over coronavirus deepened on wednesday as the countrys government unveiled plans to force tougher controls on madrid, which has been hit worse by the pandemic than any other part of europe only for the regions authorities to say they saw no reason to comply.
Salvador illa, health minister, said on wednesday night that he had secured the support of a majority of the countrys regions to trigger tough controls in urban centres with high infection rates and high rates of occupancy of intensive care beds.
But, in an indication of the increasing disarray over the handling of the pandemic, the regional administration of madrid by far the worst affected part of spain said it did not consider the move legally valid, because consensus had not been reached among the nations regions.
The confrontation between the leftwing coalition of pedro snchez and the centre-right administration of the madrid region highlights the governance crisis and the political polarisation that have accompanied the pandemic in spain as well as the steady increase in infection rates since the formal end of the countrys lockdown on june 21.
Under the new rules put forward by mr snchezs government, people would not be able to enter or leave affected areas apart for work, education and other permitted reasons. bar service would be banned, restaurants forbidden to accept new customers after 10pm and people instructed to avoid all unnecessary journeys.
The regional government of madrid has resisted imposing such restrictions on the capital city as a whole but mr illa said it would have no option to comply once an official order based on wednesdays decision was formally issued.
Yet when asked whether madrid would put the new restrictions into force, enrique ruiz escudero, the regions top health official, insisted the measures lacked legal validity, adding that the pandemic in the region was stabilising. the situation is under control, he said, citing initial signs that we are entering into a favourable situation, such as fewer hospitalisations on some recent days compared to a week earlier.
Madrid is by far the most affected region of spain in the coronavirus second wave, reporting almost 5,000 new cases on wednesday; the country as a whole saw about 11,000. madrid alone reported more than 100 new deaths on tuesday and more than 50 on wednesday.
On tuesday, the regions deputy leader had said it had reached an agreement in principle with the central government but on wednesday the two sides moved apart as madrid pushed for exemptions within the city and objected to the criteria for triggering toughening rules.
The criteria set out by the government and endorsed by most regions would impose new curbs in areas with a level of 500 or more coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over two weeks, where 10 per cent or more of coronavirus tests returned positive results, and where 35 per cent or more of intensive care beds were occupied by covid-19 patients.
Under those metrics, the new controls would be imposed on the city of madrid, which accounts for about half the greater madrid population of 6.6m, and on nine other towns in the region.
No one understands why they have gone backwards, mr illa said of madrids positioning. yesterday there was an agreement [with madrid]. today there is not.
The new criteria were also opposed by four other centre-right regional administrations and the pro-independence regional government of catalonia. but mr illa said there were 15 votes in favour, establishing a 70 per cent majority.
Madrid regions infection rate of 735 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days compares with 284 for spain as a whole, itself the highest of any european country. the eus centre of disease prevention and control describes any rate above 60 as high.
But the madrid authorities have focused their most recent coronavirus controls on 45 largely working-class districts where infection is particularly high and are reluctant to extend them to the city as a whole.
We are not breaking anything, tweeted isabel daz ayuso, the head of the madrid regional government. we are looking for a consensus text based on technical parameters, not on three generic [metrics]. we are talking about restricting the fundamental rights of millions of people.