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Spain

Madrid residents call new protest against ‘discriminatory’ localised lockdowns

People demonstrate in the Vallecas neighbourhood in Madrid against new restrictive measures announced by regional authorities, 20 September 2020.
People demonstrate in the Vallecas neighbourhood in Madrid against new restrictive measures announced by regional authorities, 20 September 2020. AFP - OSCAR DEL POZO

Resident associations in Spain have called for fresh demonstrations in Madrid against localised Covid-19 lockdowns targeting working-class neighbourhoods. The president of the Madrid region Isabel Ayuso has been branded a racist for suggesting that the lifestyle of immigrants in some of the districts was spreading the virus. 

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The regional government imposed the partial lockdown on Monday, affecting about 850,000 residents in areas worst-affected by a resurgence of the coronavirus in Madrid and its suburbs.

Some 13 percent of residents living in the Madrid region now require justification to leave their neighbourhood, such as their work, school or a medical emergency. Parks and gardens are closed and leisure facilities are obliged to operate at lower capacity.

The new restrictions, targeting many working-class districts in southern Madrid, have sparked anger, with some people questioning why those residents can head to other neighbourhoods to work but not for their leisure time.

The Madrid region’s president Isabel Ayuso came under fire last week for suggesting "the way of life of immigrants" was partly to blame for the rise in Covid-19 cases.

"We need to avoid lockdown, we need to avoid economic disaster," Ayuso told a news conference. "We don't think it's time to restrict all citizens, but rather to apply measures in areas we have perfectly identified."

'Segregationist'

Residents associations have protested with signs denouncing “segregationist confinement” and saying “our neighbourhoods are not ghettos”.

Left-wing associations have called a further demonstration for Sunday.

Madrid’s regional government, a coalition between the conservative People’s Party and the liberal Citizens’ Party have denied the restrictions imposed from Monday on 37 neighbourhoods are discriminatory.

They say they need to act in places where the rate of infection is more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents and are doing their best to avoid a total lockdown that could further damage an already hard-hit economy.

However, 16 neighbourhoods exceeding the limit remained restriction-free. 

Lockdown to widen

Spanish media reported on Tuesday the conservative-led regional government was considering extending the measures to other neighbourhoods with high rates of coronavirus or even to the whole of Madrid.

Health Minister Salvador Illa urged residents in Madrid to limit travel and socialising in order to avoid spreading Covid-19.

“I advise Madrileños people to limit their movements as much as possible over the coming days to those that are essential and to keep contacts to the closest people they live with,” Illa told radio station Cadena Ser.

Madrid is the epicentre of a second wave in new cases of the virus in Spain, which now has the worst rate of Covid-19 in Western Europe with 310.9 cases per 100,000, according to the European Centre for Disease Control.

The rate is above that of France, which has also seen new cases climbing in the last week, which has a rate of 192.6.

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