The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has said he hoped to bring the coronavirus outbreak in the capital under control within the next two weeks, as he defended the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency to keep the Madrid region in partial lockdown.
Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition invoked emergency powers on Friday after the Madrid regional government failed to respond to an ultimatum and a court struck down the central government’s original lockdown order.
“We have always put public health and saving lives above any other consideration and we’ve asked regional governments to do the same,” he told reporters during a visit to Portugal on Saturday.
“We hope that, over the coming fortnight when the state of emergency is in effect, we’ll be able to contain the pandemic in Madrid and flatten the curve. We will keep on offering a hand to the Madrid regional government so we can work together, but the situation demanded a response and we couldn’t just sit on our hands.”
On Sunday, the regional government of Navarra – which has seen 675.3 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks – ordered all bars and restaurants to reduce their capacity to 30% and to close at 10pm. It also said that no more than six people should meet.
The regional president, María Chivite, said the next two weeks would be critical, adding: “If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll be facing an even tougher scenario.”
The Catalan regional government, meanwhile, said it would ask employers to allow people to work remotely for a fortnight and universities to return to online classes for the same period of time.
“Without establishing measures, we could reach the situation in Madrid in two or three weeks,” the regional health minister, Josep Maria Argimon, told RAC1 radio.
Under the limited confinement in place in Madrid and in eight satellite towns, people are allowed to enter or exit the affected areas only on work, school or medical grounds, or for other pressing reasons. Public and private gatherings are limited to six people, while bars and restaurants are operating at 50% of their interior capacity, and must close by 11pm.
The lockdown applies to towns and cities of more than 100,000 people where there are more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, where more than 10% of tests during the previous fortnight came back positive, and where 35% or more of intensive care unit beds are occupied by Covid patients.
Over the past two weeks, Madrid has registered 540.6 new cases per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 258.4. Almost 40% of its intensive care unit beds are occupied by Covid patients, compared with a national average of 17.9%.
By Friday, Spain had logged a total 861,112 Covid cases – a rise of 12,788 on the previous day. The Madrid region accounts for a third of all Spain’s cases and a similar proportion of the country’s 32,929 deaths.
Madrid’s conservative regional government had favoured a series of highly localised lockdowns over a city-wide confinement, and had insisted its own measures were bringing the second wave of the virus under control.
In an interview on Sunday, the regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the lockdown was “ruining” Madrid’s economy and was profoundly undemocratic.
“What we have here is the most authoritarian government in the history of democracy,” Ayuso told El Mundo. “The justice system, the Madrid region, the king and the law are standing in the way of Pedro Sánchez, who’s trying to change this country through the back door.”
The far-right Vox party, which has urged people to take to the streets to protest against the lockdown, said it had also launched a legal challenge.
“I have given instructions for the illegal state of emergency declared today by the mafia government to be appealed in the constitutional court,” the party’s leader, Santiago Abascal, tweeted on Friday night.