The move came in response to a bombshell court decision on Thursday that effectively cancelled restrictions covering some 4.5 million people in and around the capital, where the rate of infections is twice the national average.
It escalates a standoff between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s socialist led coalition government and the conservative-led Madrid regional chief who believes the curbs are illegal, excessive and devastating for the local economy.
Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had issued an ultimatum: either the region passes the measures itself, or the government declares a state of emergency to push them through.
Imposed on October 2nd, the restrictions barred residents of the capital and nine nearby towns from leaving the city limits except for work, school or on medical grounds, and also imposed an 11:00 pm curfew on bars and restaurants.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Madrid's government leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, was locked in talks with her administration to decide what to do.
In a phone conversation late on Thursday, Sanchez told her the region could issue an order validating the restrictions or ask the central government to impose a state of emergency to ratify the measures.
Ayuso and Sanchez at a September meeting in Madrid. Photo: AFP
The third option was for the central government to impose such a measure,he told her, saying that in all three cases, the restrictions would remain the same.
With Sanchez away at a ceremony in Barcelona with King Felipe VI, the cabinet meeting was chaired by Carmen Calvo, one of his deputies.
“We have been continually reaching out to the region to deal with the situation to ensure that these measures are kept in place in order to contain the pandemic in Madrid,” Calvo said ahead of the meeting.
“We have only one objective: to protect Madrid.. If the community cannot do it, we will.”
The order came into force with immediate effect after being approved at the cabinet meeting.
Details of the state of emergency will be published in the BOE on Friday and will be in place for a minimum of 15 days. To extend the state of emergency beyond that will need the permission of Spain's Congress.
To add to the confusion, despite opposing the partial lockdown of the capital, mainly on economic grounds, when the court over ruled the confinement, Diaz Ayuso urged residents to stay within city limits, especially over the forthcoming three-day weekend for Spain's National Day on October 12th.
“We remain in a situation where incidence of the virus remains very, very high,” national emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon warned on Thursday, urging people to act responsibly.
“If people go to their second residence in the mountains, or go on holiday even within the region, it implies risk.”
Meanwhile, a group of scientific and medical organisations representing170,000 professionals published a letter online pleading for an end to the political infighting.
“You must accept, once and for all, that to deal with the pandemic, key decisions must be based on the best-available scientific evidence and completely disconnected from the ongoing political confrontation,” it said.
By late morning the petition, which was published on change.org, had been signed by nearly 100,000 people.
#COVID19 Manifiesto de sanitarios españoles a los politicos: “En la salud, ustedes mandan pero no saben” ⬇️ 55 sociedades científicas que representan a más de 170.000 profesionales sanitarios recogen firmas en @Change #España https://t.co/P716S8oamM#SaludPública #COVIDー19
— Natalia Sara (?) (@nataliasara2) October 4, 2020
The court refused to ratify the restrictions on grounds they were imposed by the central government and not by the regional authorities.