Spain’s government on Friday decreed a state of emergency for the Madrid region, overruling Madrid’s own regional politicians, who had applied a limited lockdown on specific neighborhoods to try to stop a second wave of Covid-19.
The government decided to use its emergency powers to lock down Madrid after suffering a major legal defeat on Thursday, when Madrid’s top regional court declared illegal its earlier effort to isolate Madrid from the rest of Spain.
The intense feuding between the government and the regional administration of Madrid is highlighting the failure of Spain’s politicians to coordinate their response to the coronavirus, amid party polarization and fragmentation.
At a cabinet meeting on Friday, the government decided that the state of emergency should come into force immediately, in a bid to stop about 4.8 millions of residents of the Madrid region from leaving for a long weekend, as Monday is a holiday in Spain. Police officers were expected to set up new checkpoints by 3 p.m. Friday.
Enrique Ruiz Escudero, the regional health minister of Madrid, said that his administration would “ask every day for the state of emergency to be lifted because the numbers back us,” in insisting that locking down specific neighborhoods was sufficient to rein in the latest wave of Covid-19 in Madrid.
The residents of Madrid, he added, “will not understand” the intervention of the central government, given the recent improvement in Madrid’s Covid-19 data. According to the regional government, the number of Covid-19 patients in the hospitals of Madrid has fallen to about 2,800 from 3,300 on Sept. 21, when selective lockdowns were introduced. However, Madrid’s lockdown strategy also triggered social tensions, because the restrictions affected mostly poorer areas of Madrid.