Madrid court strikes down government’s Covid-19 restrictions

(Update 1: Adds reaction from PM, Madrid leader, adds detail throughout.)

By Jake Threadgould

Madrid, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- The regional high court in Madrid on Thursday struck down government restrictions that sealed off the Spanish capital and nine of its satellite cities in a bid to curb soaring Covid-19 infection rates, saying the move lacked legal underpinning and breached residents’ “fundamental rights.”

The ruling, a result of an appeal lodged by regional authorities in Madrid, comes as cities across Europe re-impose restrictions to get a handle on a second wave of the pandemic.

Madrid’s regional leader, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, offered to sit down with the national government to draw up a new set of “sensible” measures overnight so that they would be clear before the upcoming bank holiday weekend in Spain.

She said the travel restrictions around the city limits of the capital and the affected suburbs would be lifted to “avoid more confusion” but asked residents not to travel during the holiday weekend.

Ayuso had been opposed to a city-wide lockdown of the capital, claiming it would only serve to further damage the local economy. Her government had enforced isolated lockdowns on neighborhoods with high infection rates, which predominantly affected lower-income and densely populated areas of the city’s south.

Addressing the media during a visit to Algeria, Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the government would study all resources to address the situation in Madrid, which is leading the second wave of the pandemic in Europe.

“We consider the figures in the Community of Madrid and the evolution of the pandemic to be a concern and, in response, we have to put all measures on the table to flatten the curve,” he said.

He added that enacting a state of alarm, the emergency mechanism that underpinned Spain’s draconian lockdown between mid-March and June, would always be considered as part of a possible response.

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