Spanish police carry out random checks as Madrid’s partial lockdown begins

Police set up temporary checkpoints over the weekend, as residents of Madrid and nine nearby towns began a partial lockdown where they can't leave the city except for school, work or medical reasons.

Spanish police carry out random checks as Madrid's partial lockdown begins
A local police officer checks a driver's identification in a traffic checkpoint, to control people's movement in Madrid, on October 3, 2020. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

“Nothing has changed, it's just like any other day in the neighbourhood,” shrugged Martinio Sanchez on a busy street in Madrid, a city in partial lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“They should have done this in August and maybe we wouldn't be where we are right now,” said the 70-year-old as he walked his dog through the eastern neighbourhood of Ciudad Lineal.

Some 4.5 million people are affected by the closure, which came into force at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) on Friday as the region battles a soaring infection rate of 730 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain — in itself the highest rate in the European Union.

For the next 14 days, residents of the capital and nine nearby towns, will not be able to leave the city limits except for work, school or medical reasons.

But they are not confined to their homes and can circulate freely.

UPDATED Q&A: What you can and can't do under Madrid's new lockdown rule

Hours after the city limits were closed off to all non-essential traffic, masked police could be seen setting up temporary checkpoints and stopping cars for about 20 minutes before moving on, an AFP correspondent said.

People wearing face masks cross a street as local police officers control people's movement in a traffic checkpoint in Madrid, on October 3, 2020.  OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

“It affects me because because I work outside Madrid and I cannot move around with the freedom I'd like to,” 45-year-old sales manager Alberto Sanchez told AFPTV, saying the regional government should have acted much earlier.

“It could have been different if the Madrid region had done its homework and started hiring contact tracers four months ago and following advice from Europe and the government,” he fumed.

But inside the city, little appeared to have changed with life largely carrying on as normal on a brilliant October morning with a sharp autumnal chill in the area.

“Everything's open and you can't see police anywhere. We can move around Madrid but you can't go out to the nearby villages or to the mountains,” said Feliza Sanchez, 78.

“I don't know how this is going to change the situation we have at the moment.”

Sitting on a bar stool nursing a beer and a slice of Spanish omelette, Jorge Alvarez said the restrictions wouldn't have much impact on his life.

“In principle, nothing will change. I will continue to live a normal life because you can't lock yourself up inside your house and not work,” said Alvarez, a 49-year-old metal worker.

“Who knows if it will stop the virus spreading? But obviously people in the bar and restaurant industry are going to lose a lot of money,” he said.

Hospitality industry hit

For those in the bar and restaurant sector, who must reduce their indoor seating capacity by half and close by 11:00 pm, the new rules are a huge blow, particularly in a country where people tend to socialise late into the night.

Men have coffee at a cafe in the neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid on September 17, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

“It's going to affect us terribly,” said Baldomero Cubas, 50, who manages the Cerveceria Santa Ana in the city centre.

“With this measure many bars will think about closing, because if we were struggling before, now we can only have 60 percent seating capacity outside and 50 percent inside. And on top of that, with closing by 11, we're looking at a loss rather than breaking even.”

ANALYSIS: Why Madrid and not Barcelona is the epicentre of Spain's coronavirus second wave

And some fear they simply won't survive, such as Jorge Luis Ortega Pina, who owns the Degustando tavern, a tiny but popular bar in Ciudad Lineal with counter seating for barely 15 people.

“I will almost certainly have to close,” the 50-year-old says, standing behind a gleaming counter. He adds that he has done everything possible to try and create distance between customers.

“With these restrictions I will be lucky to bring in 1,500 euros ($1,750) a month and we are a family of four. I've no idea how I'm going to manage.”

People, he said, had been brought to their knees by the economic devastation caused by pandemic which had left many people struggling to survive, even with financial help from the government.

“There are going to be riots in the street,” he warned, saying even the charity sector was struggling with the sheer numbers of people in need.

“Caritas is overwhelmed, the Red Cross is overwhelmed, everything is just falling apart,” he said.

The corona virus has now killed nearly 32,000 people in Spain and has infected around 760,000.


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What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain?