Residents of Madrid wear face masks as they sit by a fountain in the Spanish capital on Wednesday – Anadolu

Madrid has announced new coronavirus restrictions that could include the return of total lockdown in some areas. 

Antonio Zapatero, the deputy health minister, said zones with the “highest incidence” of the virus would go back into lockdown by the weekend, including restrictions on mobility and the potential “confinement” of citizens in their homes. “We must act as quickly as possible,” he said.

Spain had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, and hospitals in Madrid are again under intense pressure amid a second wave of coronavirus in the country (see graphic below). 

However, there were signs of a backtrack immediately after the announcement as sources from the administration briefed local media organisations to deny that any decision on new restrictions had been taken. The customary press conference after the regional government’s weekly cabinet meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

“This is a decision that is going to affect daily lives,” said Ángel Gabilondo, the leader of the Socialist opposition party in Madrid. “We need more information.”

Health sector organisations have pointed to growing pressure on intensive care units, where coronavirus patients are now taking up 90 per cent of capacity.

According to Tuesday’s health ministry figures, Madrid reported 115 of 303 deaths nationwide over the past week, with a positivity rate from testing higher than any other Spanish region at 21.4 per cent. The Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa, said on Wednesday he was “worried” about the situation in the capital.

Usera, with virus transmission standing at 1,155 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days, is among the worst hit areas. Its numbers are almost double the Madrid average and close to five times the figure for the whole of Spain. 

In the neighbourhood on Wednesday, Pepe was busy serving lunches at Bar Mariblanca but did not know how much longer he would remain in business.

“We survived the three-month closure thanks to a loan from the [state-owned bank] ICO, and have been running at 50 per cent capacity since. Now they say we are going to be shut down again. Who knows if we will get through this time?” he said.  

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David Castillo, a 34-year-old unemployed Madrid resident, said he feared another lockdown would see him trapped inside his house virtually 24 hours a day because he has no workplace to go to.

“I would be very upset, and also very indignant at people’s lack of responsibility, which is making things get worse,” he said of the possible return to confinement.

Spain registered 239 deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday, up from 156 the previous day, the largest single-day toll since May.  

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