Spain’s government declared a state of emergency in Madrid Friday, taking control of efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 from local authorities after a regional court struck down restrictions as the region faces one of the most significant outbreaks in Europe.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government took the step at a special cabinet meeting as he imposed his authority on regional officials, who have resisted his calls for restrictions on travel in the region.
The move gives Sanchez extraordinary powers to order new constraints on life in the capital, where efforts to control a surge in infections have been complicated by the standoff. The step forced Madrid authorities to restore restrictions they had ignored following the court ruling.
At a news conference Friday, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the measures, which prohibit residents from leaving the area, including nine nearby towns, without a valid reason, among other measures, would be effective immediately and remain in place for 15 days.
The Madrid region’s 14-day infection rate of more than 560 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents is more than twice Spain’s national average of 256 and five times the European average rate of 113 for the week ending September 27.
The Interior Ministry said an extra 7,000 policemen and security personnel would be deployed for enforcement of the measures “at various exit and access points of the region under state of emergency."
The partial lockdown comes as the nation begins a three-day holiday weekend, and initial reports from Madrid said cars continued to pour out of the city and its neighboring towns on Friday.