Spain considers state of emergency for virus-hit Madrid

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Spain considers state of emergency for virus-hit Madrid

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gives his speech when he attends a meeting with Spanish and Algerian business representatives in Algiers on Thursday, October 8th, 2020. (AP Photo / Anis Belghoul)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is holding a cabinet meeting Friday morning to consider declaring a state of emergency for Madrid and the surrounding region in order to impose stricter anti-virus restrictions on reluctant regional governors.

The meeting takes place one day after a national government decree was issued by a Madrid court, which provided for a partial blockage of the Spanish capital and its suburbs. The ruling joined regional officials who appealed against the use of stricter measures against one of the most worrying virus clusters in Europe.

The judges said travel restrictions in and out of cities may be necessary to fight the spread of the coronavirus, but that under the current legal framework, they violate residents' "fundamental rights".

The national government announced late on Thursday evening that Sánchez had spoken to the Madrid regional manager, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, by phone and given her an ultimatum. Sánchez told Ayuso that if they did not quickly tighten his measures or formally ask his national government to declare a state of emergency, his government would declare it anyway.

A state of emergency gives the national government extraordinary powers to temporarily restrict citizens' constitutional rights in times of crisis. If so, this would restrict their freedom of movement by resuming perimeter controls in Madrid and some nearby cities, which are also suffering from high levels of contamination.

Spain is considering a state of emergency for virus-stricken Madrid
A health worker from the Madrid Ambulance Service (SUMMA) checks a man's temperature before a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 in the southern neighborhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday October 7, 2020. Approximately 5.2 million people in Spain The nearly 4.8 million residents in or around Madrid are restricted in their mobility due to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo / Manu Fernandez)

A much stricter nationwide state of emergency, which began with house arrest, was used by the government from March to June to successfully contain Spain's first virus wave that causes COVID-19. Since its demise, regions have regained control of health policies and their responses to outbreak control have varied. Some have applied perimeter locks in areas or cities with viral clusters.

The Madrid region has a 14-day infection rate of 591 coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, more than double the Spanish average of 257 and five times the European average of 113 in the week ended September 27th.

The dispute between Madrid's conservative-led government and Socialist Party leader Sánchez has angered many Spaniards who find it petty to use a public health tragedy for political disputes.

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