Spains health minister: Madrid has challenging weeks ahead

Madrid, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- Madrid has challenging weeks ahead and must act with determination to control Spain’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, the health minister warned Thursday.

Salvador Illa’s remarks came as the country crept above 700,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

Madrid’s regional government is poised to detail new restrictions in the city on Friday after 37 districts with the highest infection rates, all of which are located in the predominantly lower-income and densely-populated south, were placed in a partial lockdown earlier this week.

“There are challenging weeks ahead for Madrid,” health minister Illa told a press conference Thursday. “We have to act with determination to take control of the pandemic. In this context we will offer our recommendations,” he said.

Health authorities on Thursday added 10,653 new coronavirus cases to the overall national caseload on Thursday, some 3,471 of which were detected in the last 24 hours.

It brings the total number of cases confirmed in Spain to 704,209 since the Covid-19 outbreak began. Over 31,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Spain, some 500 in the last week.

A further 828 new Covid-19 were confirmed in the Spanish capital in the previous 24 hours.

The central government of Socialist Party prime minister Pedro Sánchez and the regional Madrid government of conservative Isabel Díaz Ayuso agreed earlier this week to set up a joint working group on the handling of Covid-19 in the capital.

At the end of the first Spanish lockdown in May, powers to draw up restrictions were handed to regional officials, a transfer Díaz Ayuso had lobbied for. But as the second wave of infections took hold in Spain the Madrid leader requested the collaboration of the central government.

The government of Díaz Ayuso, a member of the Popular Party, said it had asked the national government to deploy soldiers to help with track and trace operations, disinfection and the monitoring of partially-locked down districts, whose residents can only leave for work or to care for dependants, as well as for 300 extra medical workers to be sent in from other regions.

Spain’s defense minister Margarita Robles on Thursday said some 7,500 soldiers could be deployed to help with the pandemic restrictions in Madrid.

She added, however, that there had so far been no official petition from the regional Madrid authorities for soldiers beyond the 150 it requested several weeks ago to work on the track and trace system.

Díaz Ayuso’s has not ruled out placing enforcing a city-wide lockdown if the infection rate continues to rise but has suggested she would first exhaust other options.

Her government’s decision to apply targetted lockdowns sparked protests in the affected neighborhoods as people accused her of discrimination against lower-income areas. EFE-EPA


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