Spain’s government on Monday warned the Madrid authorities it could take drastic measures if the region failed to move decisively to slow the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus infections.
The city and the surrounding region is at the epicentre of a second wave of coronavirus that is sweeping Spain, having claimed more than 31,000 lives and infected over 700,000 in the highest infection rate in the European Union.
Over the past week, the Madrid authorities have placed around a million people under partial lockdown, but the measures have fallen well short of the central government’s demands, triggering a warning from Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo.
If Madrid’s conservative-led regional government did not toughen its strategy, “there is no doubt that [the central government] is prepared to do whatever is necessary” to rein in the virus, he told Spain’s RNE public radio.
Although Spain is struggling with the highest number of new cases within the EU with a rate of nearly 300 per 100,000 inhabitants — in the Madrid region, the figure currently stands at more than 720 per 100,000.
Campo’s remarks came as the left-wing administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ramped up a campaign to pressure Madrid’s regional government which began at the weekend.
Since the national state of emergency ended on June 21, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
Over the past week, Madrid has imposed partial lockdowns on areas in and around the city where residents cannot leave their neighbourhoods unless for work, school or medical reasons. But they are not confined to their homes and can move freely within their district.
An initial confinement order affecting 850,000 people was rolled out a week ago, with another 167,000 people added on Monday. Police are conducting random checks to ensure compliance with the new rules, which now apply to nearly one in six of the region’s 6.6 million residents.