Justice system, government clash over fresh coronavirus restrictions in Spain

Madrid, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- A ruling from a Madrid judge that scrapped the regional government’s new coronavirus restrictions, which included a ban on smoking in public places and the temporary closure of night clubs, has thrown up questions about the legality of implementing such extraordinary measures.

It came as Spain as a whole was witnessing a considerable daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases, a figure that has hovered above 3,000 for much of the week.

The new measures introduced last week by Madrid’s regional government had been agreed by the national health ministry and authorities in the country’s 17 autonomous regions.

They were specifically aimed at stemming community transmission of Covid-19 among young people, who make up the majority of those testing positive for coronavirus in recent weeks.

The ruling to overturn the measure, which argued the draconian measures were not underpinned by legislation and infringed on human rights, has created uncertainty in the capital city’s nightlife industry.

In response to the judge’s ruling, the head of the Madrid government’s Covid-19 plan, Antonio Zapatero, on Saturday called for a “certain uniformity” when it came to the judicial approach to new coronavirus measures.

He said the regional government would appeal the ruling.

According to the latest data on Friday, there were 3,650 new Covid-19 cases logged in the last 24 hours, a third of which were reported in Madrid, which is once again becoming a hotspot.

Officials in the Spanish capital have already recommended that people living in the worst-affected neighborhoods — predominantly densely-populated and low-income areas in the south — to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.

Since the end of the state of alarm, the mechanism that underpinned the nationwide lockdown, two months ago, all new coronavirus restrictions introduced must be approved by a region’s autonomous government and its justice system.

Although a number of regions have adopted such measures in recent weeks, only in Madrid were they challenged by a judge, who argued that the national government has to issue such rules.

The national government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has for the moment ruled out decreeing another state of alarm, which would be required for it to apply the measures.

The ruling in Madrid prompted discontent in the city’s nightlife sector.

In a statement on Saturday, the national association for nightlife industry and Spain Nightlife urged the government to offer “clarity” on the situation.

It said the industry was “key” for tourism, employed some 300,000 people and accounted for 1.8 percent of GDP.

Spain has documented over 386,000 coronavirus cases and more than 28,000 deaths since the pandemic began.EFE-EPA


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