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MADRID

Madrid extends restrictions to another eight zones but ignores calls for full lockdown

Madrid's regional government expanded the number of areas under partial lockdown Friday in a move now affecting a million people, but ignored a central government plea for restrictions across the capital.

Madrid extends restrictions to another eight zones but ignores calls for full lockdown
Photo: AFP

Antonio Zapatero, the region's deputy health chief, said the restrictions would affect 167,000 people in eight new areas who will not be able to leave their neighbourhood except for work, school or medical reasons.

He also recommended that all of the region's 6.6 million residents “avoid unnecessary movement” as authorities race to slow the spread of the virus in Spain's worst-hit region.

The eight new health zones that bring the confinement list to 45 are:

Vicálvaro-Artilleros (Vicálvaro), García-Noblejas (San Blas-Canillejas), Rafael Alberti and Campo de la Paloma (Puente de Vallecas), Orcasitas (Usera) in Madrid Capital, and Panaderas (Fuenlabrada), Doctor Trueta and Miguel Servet (Alcorcón).

Even as the new restrictions were announced by Madrid regional health authorities, the central government's health minister, who held a press conference at the same time, recommended locking down the entire city.

Salvador Illa called for a perimeter restriction to be placed on the city of Madrid to limit movement and reduce the number of people allowed to meet. 

But Zapatero explained that the decision had been made to include a further 8 zones based on three criteria centring on the incidence rate of new cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. Those areas where the rate rose above 1,000 were put on the danger list but it also depends on the ability of the health centres to cope with the outbreak and the ease of geographically defining an area. 

Lavapies and Tetuan, two zones where the figure rises above 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants were notably absent from the list. 

Meanwhile. Illa said the Ministry of Health recommended lowering the threshold and imposing restrictions on all areas above 500 cases per 100.000 – a figure that would include virtually the whole of the Madrid region where the average is over 750.

Restrictions in the new zones would begin on Monday, Zapatero said. 

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FACE MASKS

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. 

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