IN PICS: Residents in Madrid’s poorest neighbourhoods protest new lockdown ‘segregation’

Residents in some of Madrid's poorest neighbourhoods took to the streets on Sunday to complain over lack of health provisions and discrimination a day before a partial lockdown was put in place in a bid to stall a second wave of Covid-19.

IN PICS: Residents in Madrid's poorest neighbourhoods protest new lockdown 'segregation'
Photos: AFP

Nearly a million Madrid residents will on Monday begin a partial lockdown as Spanish authorities seek to put a brake on the coronavirus.

The restrictions, which take effect Monday for two weeks, affect 850,000 people living mainly in densely-populated, low-income neighbourhoods in the south — or 13 percent of the 6.6 million people living in and around the capital.

The lockdown measures apply to 37 “basic health zones” across the Madrid region and predominantly apply to areas of lower income and with higher immigrant populations.

Peaceful demonstrations were held in 12 of the 37 districts affected on Sunday in protest against the new measures.

They sported placards reading “No to a class-based lockdown” or “They're destroying our district and now they're locking us up”.   

Hundreds gathered in the districts concerned and outside the regional parliament to shout their displeasure.

People hold a banner reading “No to a classist lockdown” during a demonstration at the Carabanchel neighborhood. Photo: AFP


A protester wears a jersey depecting depicting a caricature of Spanish health official Fernando Simon at the Vallecas neighborhood in Madrid. Photo: AFP

A woman holds a placard reading “If they see you on the street doing sports, go to the subway where there is no virus. We are poor but not dumb” during a demonstration in Vallecas. Photo: AFP

“The health centres having been working for years with minimum staffing, they don't have enough staff or nurses … and this crisis has made the situation worse,” lamented Victoria, a 63-year-old civil servant.

“You get the impression they take us for fools. We shall be able to continue to go and work in other non-confined zones at the risk of ramping up transmission, and we shall also be able to infect ourselves within our own zone,” Bethania Perez, a nurse aged 31, told AFP.   

A demonstrator holds a placard reading “Where is the money” as policemen stand guard in front of The Assembly of Madrid in Madrid, on Sunday 2020. Photo: AFP

A policeman tries to disperse demonstrators gathered in front of The Assembly of Madrid. Photo: AFP

Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martínez-Almeida said the measures did not discriminate against the poor.

“There are no first class residents and second class residents. We have to be together at this moment,” he tweeted.


Madrid's regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who has been slammed for her management of the crisis, is due to meet Sanchez on Monday.    

The meeting is a sign of central government concern over the crisis in Madrid, as the management of public health issues is normally the responsibility of Spanish regional authorities.

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

As such, experts fear a sharp increase in the regional mortality rate — which is currently much lower than in the spring — over the coming weeks.    

Spain has so far recorded over 30,000 deaths – one of Europe's worst tolls – and 600,000 confirmed cases, according to official figures.

Several districts of southern Madrid have counted more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants — around five times the national average, which in itself is the highest in the European Union.

Residents will be banned from leaving their district other than for essential travel like work, medical care or taking children to school, Madrid's regional government said Friday.

They will be allowed to move around freely inside their zone but no one from outside will be allowed in unless absolutely essential.   

Parks will be closed but shops, bars and restaurants will remain open at 50 percent capacity.

Meanwhile, gatherings of more than six people will be banned in the entire region, down from ten currently.



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Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first.