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Covid-19: Lockdown in parts of Madrid amid virus spike

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Masked shopper leaves a grocery store in Madrid on 18 September 2020

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Parts of the Spanish capital Madrid are to be subject to lockdown restrictions to curb a rise in Covid-19, as cases across Europe continue to spike.

From Monday, more than 850,000 people in the Madrid region will face limits on travel and sizes of groups.

Spain has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, and Madrid is once again the worst-hit region.

Many northern hemisphere countries are now bracing for a second wave of the pandemic as winter approaches.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the perils as people move indoors. “There is a lot of work to do in order to avoid amplification events, drive down transmission of this epidemic, protect the opening of schools and protect the most vulnerable in our society,” Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said.

France recorded its highest number of new confirmed daily cases since the pandemic began, at 13,215 – a jump of nearly 3,000 more cases in 24 hours. They included Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who said he had tested positive but was showing no symptoms. Several cities, including Marseille and Nice, are bringing in tighter restrictions.

The UK recorded 4,322 new cases and 27 deaths on Friday – its highest number of cases since 8 May, and

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned a second wave was now “inevitable”. Large parts of the north of England are now subject to extensive lockdown measures.

Elsewhere in Europe:

  • Indoor restaurant dining is to be banned in the Irish capital Dublin, and all non-essential travel discouraged, after a surge in recent cases
  • Denmark is lowering public gathering numbers from 100 to 50 and ordering bars and restaurants to close early
  • Entertainment venues and pubs in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik have been ordered to close over the weekend
  • Restrictions are to be tightened in six regions and cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam
  • Tighter restrictions are also coming into force in the Greater Athens region of Greece

What’s happening in Madrid?

Spain now has 625,651 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, and rates of infection in the Madrid region are more than double the national average, the Spanish government says.

From Monday, 37 of the worst-hit health districts in the region will be subject to lockdown restrictions.

Residents will only be able to leave their zone to go to work, school or to seek medical care. Social gatherings within their zone will be limited to six, public parks will be shut and commercial businesses will need to close by 22:00.

“There are 37 basic areas where the incidence is very high, over 1,000 for every 100,000 people in the last 14 days,” said Madrid regional government chief Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

“These areas have particularly high population density and connectivity. We need, above all, measures to ensure that quarantines are observed.”

The areas affected are in some of Madrid’s poorer districts and, Reuters reports, residents there are feeling abandoned, stigmatised and fearful that the new restrictions will deprive them of income.

One retiree in Vallecas, a southern district with a lower average income, higher immigrant population and one of the highest infection rates in Madrid, told Reuters the health system was paralysed there.

“They have us out here waiting, crowded, queues everywhere,” Mari Paz Gonzalez said. “We are abandoned… They left us in the hands of God.”

A fifth of beds in local hospitals are reportedly taken up by Covid-19 patients.

Spain was among the worst-hit European countries in the first wave of infections, and has lost more than 30,000 lives.

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