Coronavirus: What we know about Madrid’s new lockdown plans for worst-hit neighbourhoods

The local government of Madrid, the region of Spain hit hardest by the pandemic, said Wednesday it was considering imposing lockdown measures in neighbourhoods recording the biggest rise in Covid-19 infections.

Coronavirus: What we know about Madrid's new lockdown plans for worst-hit neighbourhoods
All photos: AFP

The region's deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, said the restrictions would involve limitations on the size of gatherings and well as of people's movements and they will be announced by the end of the week.

Which neighbours will see new restrictions imposed?

We don’t yet know the exact answer to that but it is easy to see which are the hardest hit zones in the capital.

“The highest incidence levels are still currently in the south of Madrid,” Zapatero said without naming which neighbourhoods might be affected.   

The average incidence of the coronavirus in the last 14 days across the Madrid region came in at 651.50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Several working class neighbourhoods in southern Madrid and satellite cities south of the Spanish capital have recorded in the last two weeks 700 Covid-19 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants.

The district with the highest infection rate is Puente de Vallecas, with 1,240.76 cases per 100,000 inhabitants., followed by Villaverde with 1,157.47 and Usera with 1,155.71. Carabanchel has an incidence of 884.24, then Ciudad Lineal with 876.16.

San Blas-Canilejas and Madrid Centro are the only other districts which have both recorded a rate above 750 cases per 100,000.

The interactive map below shows the rate of each of Madrid’s districts.

Will it be a lockdown as strict as the first one?

When Spain declared a “state of national emergency” back in mid-March, it declared a national lockdown that became the strictest in Europe, confining residents to their homes and only allowing them out to buy supplies and make essential visits to dependents and to seek medical care.

It seems unlikely that such a strict lockdown would be imposed and more likely that residents in the worst hit neighbourhoods would be confined to their own districts and meetings limited.

“We talk of ‘confinement’ because that is a term already familiar,” he explained adding that it would be more like a “restriction of movement” than people being confined to their homes.

But no exact details have yet been given.

What about schools?

Photo: AFP

Zapatero was asked whether schools in the confinement zones would be forced to close but would not give a definitive answer.

“We are reflecting on it,” he said.

A total of 178 classes in schools across the entire Madrid region have been suspended and students placed in quarantine according to the latest data on Wednesday morning.

“This is 0.5 percent of the total, given that we count on a total of 35,000 classrooms,” Zapatero explained.

Are hospitals at crisis point then?

In the Madrid region 21 percent of hospital beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, more than double the national average which stands at 8.5 percent.    

Medical staff are insisting the region is heading once again towards a health crisis.

On Tuesday hospital staff protested against what they said was a lack of support from regional health authorities, and also called for better working conditions.

“We have a human problem. If health workers are already starting to get sick in September, we don’t want to imagine what it will be like in December,”  ICU nurse Victor Aparicio told Reuters outside Madrid’s Gregorio Maranon hospital.

What are the current rules?

In August the regional government of Madrid had already advised residents in areas with a high level of infections to stay at home and avoid unnecessary trips and meetings but this has not stop Covid-19 cases from rising.

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

Current restrictions in Madrid limit meetings in public and private to 10 people if they do not live together. Limits have been placed on the capacity at religious sites, cemeteries and funeral homes to 60 percent of the usual level, as are weddings, baptisms and communions.

Meanwhile in the hosterlry sector, occupation of counters in bars is limited to 50 percent of capacity, while chairs in restaurants and other establishments must be placed at least 1.5 meters apart.

When will new restrictions come into force?

Again, the answer is vague. The exact restrictions and where they will be imposed will be announced “over the weekend” and would take effect “immediately” according to Zapatero. 


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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.