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Spain Orders New Lockdown Measures on Madrid After COVID-19 Cases Spike


Members of the royal guard wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus ride towards the foreign ministry in downtown Madrid, Spain, Sept. 30, 2020.

Spain’s government has issued limited lockdown orders on Madrid as the country experiences a new surge of coronavirus cases.

The capital city’s 3 million residents will not be allowed to venture from their homes except to go to work, school, shopping or for medical care. All bars and restaurants will be forced to close earlier than normal and reduce their seating capacity by 50%.

The new restrictions were approved during a meeting Wednesday between the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the heads of Spain’s various autonomous regions. Health Minister Salvador Illa told reporters the restrictions will apply to municipalities with at least 100,000 inhabitants each, which would also affect nine municipalities surrounding the Spanish capital.

Europe is experiencing a steady rise of new COVID-19 infections, with Spain leading the way with about 300 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. But the rate is more than double in the Madrid region, which stands at more than 780 infections per 100,000.

“Madrid's health is Spain's health,” Health Minister Illa said.

But the new restrictions have been denounced by Madrid’s right-wing regional government, with regional health minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero accusing the national Socialist-led government of interfering in the region’s handling of the pandemic. Madrid’s regional government rejected the new restrictions during Wednesday’s meeting, along with Catalonia and three other conservative-ruled regions.

Spain has more than 31,000 COVID-19 deaths, the fourth most in Europe behind Britain, Italy and France.

New Israeli Restrictions

In Israel, lawmakers have approved a bill that limits Israelis from holding demonstrations more than one kilometer from their homes. Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at curbing the country’s growing number of COVID-19 infections, which prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu to impose a second nationwide lockdown last week.

But others say the measure is an attempt to end the mass weekly protests that have been staged near Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem for the past several months.

The protesters have demanded the prime minister’s resignation over his handling of the pandemic and allegation of corruption. Netanyahu is currently on trial in three separate cases for bribery, fraud and other official misconduct charges.

U.S. layoffs

Meanwhile, two of the world’s biggest airlines, U.S. carriers American and United, say they will begin furloughing a combined 32,000 workers on Thursday due to a lack of more emergency aid from the federal government. The U.S. airline industry had received $25 billion in payroll support in March during the first days of the pandemic, as domestic and international travel ground to a halt.

The furloughs by American and United come on the same week U.S. entertainment giant Disney announced it will lay off 28,000 workers, the majority of them at the company’s theme parks in Florida and California.

In a related matter, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that it is extending its ban on passenger cruise travel until October 31. The ban was first imposed in March in the early days of the outbreak, when hundreds of coronavirus infections and deaths were reported onboard cruise ships around the world. The CDC says between March 1 and September 29, there have been 3,689 cases of COVID-19 infections on cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters, including 41 deaths.

News outlets say the Trump administration overruled a recommendation by Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, to extend the ban until next February.