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MADRID

Madrid region imposes partial lockdown on worst hit zones of capital

Madrid regional authorities on Friday announced a partial "lockdown" in the zones of the capital worst hit by the coronavirus and reduced the number of people allowed to meet in a group from 10 to six across the entire region.

Madrid region imposes partial lockdown on worst hit zones of capital
Isabel Diaz Ayuso made the announcement on Friday at 5pm.

The regional government will limit movement between and within areas badly affected by a new surge in coronavirus infections, regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso said in a much anticipated press conference on Friday afternoon. 

The restrictions would affect over 850,000 people – roughly 13 percent of the 6.6 million population of the region where some 25 percent of the new cases had been recorded.

Those who live within zones where the average incidence of the coronavirus in the last 14 days across has reached more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The residents of the areas, mainly in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods in the south of Madrid, will as of Monday only be allowed to leave their zone to go to work, seek medical care or take their children to school.

All bars and restaurants will have to reduce their capacity by 50 percent, the regional government of Madrid said in the statement.   

Residents of the areas affected will be allowed to move around freely inside their zone but no one from outside will be allowed in.

She said 37 “health zones” which affect 26 neighbourhoods within six districts and 11 areas across 8 municipalities of the region had been identified for “drastic measures”. These are:

Madrid Capital:
Carabanchel: Puerta Bonita, Vista Alegre and Guayaba.

Usera: Almendrales, Las Calesas, Zofío, Orcasur and San Fermín.

Villaverde: San Andrés, San Cristóbal, El Espinillo and Los Rosales.
Villa de Vallecas
Puente de Vallecas: Entrevías, Martínez de la Riva, San Diego, Numancia, Peña Prieta, Pozo del Tío Raimundo, Ángela Uriarte, Alcalá de Guadaira and Federica Montseny.
Ciudad Lineal: Doctor Cirajas, Ghandi, Daroca and La Elipa.

Fuenlabrada:
Alicante, Cuzco and Francia.

Parla:
San Blas and Isabel II.

Getafe:
Las Margaritas and Sánchez Morate;

San Sebastián de los Reyes:
Reyes Católicos.

Alcobendas:
Chopera and Miraflores.

And the municipalities of Humanes de Madrid and Moraleja de Enmedio.

READ ALSO MAP: Which areas of Madrid have new restrictions?

 

The restrictions will see the closure of parks and public spaces in those areas.

It was also announced that across the whole of Madrid groups must be limited to six people, a reduction from the current limit of ten.

“Reports indicate that most contagions are occurring in private settings, in personal relationships between families and friends,” said Diaz Ayusa, who was infected at the start of the pandemic.

“We are obliged to take these measures in these specific areas…if we did not do so, we run the risk of it being spread to the whole of Madrid. We have time to avoid it.”

But she insisted that even in the restricted areas people would not be stopped from going to work or to school.

“We need to avoid lockdown, we need to avoid economic disaster,” Ayuso insisted.

The restrictions would be in place from Monday for 14 days and then reviewed, she said. 

Regional health officials say Madrid's healthcare system is under growing pressure with one in five hospital beds occupied by Covid patients.   

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21st, lifting all lockdown restrictions, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been left in the hands of Spain's 17 autonomous regions.

Late on Thursday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to meet Diaz Ayuso for emergency talks “to define a common strategy” although the meeting is not due to take place until Monday.

But experts said Madrid's regional government should have learned from the experiences of other regions which reacted quickly following a surge in cases in July.

“Instead of preparing and learning from what happened in places like Aragon and Catalonia, which have coped better with the epidemic, Madrid and other regions didn't put the necessary measures in place,” said Salvador Macip, a health sciences expert at Catalonia's Open University.

“We have found ourselves in a situation which is out of control and did not need to be.”

'Overwhelmed'

Regional health officials say Madrid's healthcare system is under growing pressure, with one in five hospital beds occupied by Covid patients.   

Santiago Usoz, a medic working at the accident and emergency unit in Madrid's October 12 hospital, said there was a lack of both beds and staff.    

“Intensive care units are overwhelmed with Covid patients,” he told AFP, adding that his hospital had 35 patients needing intensive care but only 32 beds in the ICU.

“Since the start of September, the admissions curve has been steadily rising… In spring the biggest problem was the lack of material, now it's the lack of human resources.”

Regional figures show there are 2,850 people with Covid in hospital of whom 392 are in intensive care.

Figures from the Spanish health ministry indicate that over the past week, 20,987 people have tested positive for the virus in the region and 138 people have died.   

Spain has so far suffered more than 30,000 deaths and 625,000 cases of Covid-19, government figures show.

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COVID-19

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.

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