‘So, can we now leave Madrid?’: Confusion over partial lockdown rules following court ruling

'So, can we now leave Madrid?': Confusion over partial lockdown rules following court ruling
Photo: AFP
As Spain heads towards a three day weekend with a bank holiday that promises unseasonably warm weather, the court ruling in Madrid overturning a partial lockdown of the capital has left people confused: Can they leave the city or not?

The Madrid High Court ruled on Thursday that it would not ratify the orders placed on the city from last Friday under the new agreement between Spain’s Health Ministry and autonomous regional authorities.

Under the Health Ministry’s order, Madrid authorities barred residents from leaving the capital and nine other municipalities around it while they launched a legal appeal.

The Madrid regional court sided with the regional government in its ruling against ratifying the order, calling the restrictions “interference by public authorities in citizens’ fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it”.

The court decision effectively means that the new measures have no legal standing and that the police have no authority to impose fines on those who break confinement limits.

However, Madrid's regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso on Thursday urged all residents to remain within the city limits despite the bombshell court ruling.

“We ask people once again not to leave Madrid and to follow all the health recommendations, especially in the next few days given that there is a long weekend,” she said in a televised address on Thursday.

She promised to release a set of “sensible, fair and balanced” rules on Friday, to inform Madrileños of what they can and can’t do.

“Madrid’s businesses can’t carry on like this … Nobody understands the rules, nobody knows what is going on,” she said.

The restrictions had imposed a 14-day ban on people leaving the limits of the capital and nine other surrounding towns where instance of the virus is very high.

But the High Court still has to rule on whether or not to suspend the restrictions as a precautionary measure while it considers the Madrid government’s appeal.

The region has 10 days from the time it presented the appeal to file its arguments against the central government’s actions, which in turn will then have to be considered in a period of five days by judges.

Meanwhile Madrid city Mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, explained at a press conference that the court decision did not affect a raft of other restrictions which he said did not require legal ratification.

These include the limitations of social gatherings to no more than six people and the restrictions that limit occupation of bars and restaurants to half of their usual occupancy and closing times by 11pm.

But it is now not clear what which any of the new restrictions apply legally or if the previous restrictions of 45 “basic health zones” now come back into force as they were superseded by the Health Ministry orders.

The confusion generated by the ruling is the latest development in a political battle between the central government, a coalition of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos, and the regional government run by the conservative PP in coalition with centre-right Ciudadanos and with the support of far-right Vox.

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