Spanish lockdown protests flare again

Protesters in Madrid have demanded more public health resources in the fight against coronavirus.
Protesters in Madrid have demanded more public health resources in the fight against coronavirus.

Thousands in Madrid have marched in protest against local lockdowns targeting mainly low-income areas in an effort to stem one of Europe's biggest surges in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

For a second straight week, demonstrators took to city streets on Sunday, criticising the conservative regional government's measures as discriminatory segregation and demanding more money for the health sector and an improvement in how infections are tracked.

Left-wing parties, trade unions, citizens' initiatives and student associations had called for protests in various districts and municipalities in the greater area of the Spanish capital and demanded the resignation of regional president, Isabel Diaz Ayuso.

"These measures only serve to punish and stigmatise the working class neighbourhoods in the south," said Carolina Alonso, a local MP from the left-wing Unidas Podemos party.

On Friday, Diaz Ayuso ignored advice from the left-wing central government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to cordon off as much of Madrid as possible.

Instead, she only ordered the expansion of existing restrictions on freedom of movement from 37 to 45 areas starting Monday.

The central government is meanwhile considering largely sealing off the capital, even against the will of the regional government, according to local media reports.

For the time being there has been no official confirmation of these plans.

However Sanchez's Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Madrid had been urged to "review" its measures and follow the recommendations of scientists and physicians.

Against the backdrop of social and political unrest during the pandemic, the latest official figures on the infection rate offered a small glimmer of hope for the 6.6 million or so inhabitants of the Madrid region.

The so-called seven-day incidence - the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days, which for days was well over 300 in the area - has fallen to 267, according to the latest official figures.

For the whole of Spain, however, the figure was less than half that at 121.

Australian Associated Press