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Why is Madrid not under lockdown?

Catalan and Spanish governments disagree over how to tackle coronavirus crisis, as experts have their say


16 March 2020 09:57 PM


ACN | Madrid

Spain has rapidly become the country in Europe with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases after Italy: Monday's official figures are at 9,100, with 309 deaths.

More than half of these diagnoses – 4,165 – are of people located in the Madrid region and half affected a number of high-ranking politicians, from Spanish cabinet members to the region's president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso.

Despite this, the region of Madrid is not under complete lockdown as some claim it should be. Because a state of alarm has been declared in the country, people can only technically leave home to buy basic goods, go to work or go to the doctor, but roads and highways have not been completely cut off either.

And while Catalonia has also had its fair share of cases – 1,394, including Catalan president Quim Torra and vice president Pere Aragonès, making it the second region in Spain with the highest number overall – a rift has been growing between the Spanish and Catalan cabinets on how exactly to tackle the covid-19 crisis.

The Catalan government has repeatedly suggested that the Madrid region should be under complete lockdown, as has been the case of the central Catalonia city of Igualada and three surrounding towns after they were discovered to be home to a sizable coronavirus cluster.

Spanish president Pedro Sánchez's cabinet, on the other hand, does not deem closing specific areas of Spain off necessary and has instead opted for restoring land border controls and restricting entry to nationals and residents.

Meanwhile, the Catalan government – which has no authority over airports, ports or interregional trains – continues to urge the Spanish one to allow them to effectively close off Catalonia, as President Torra announced was their aim on Friday, and has since called the Spanish government's efforts to contain the virus "insufficient."

What do medical experts say?

The head of Barcelona's Hospital Clínic's epidemiology department, Dr. Antoni Trilla, does not believe there will be a significant benefit from stepping up border controls, arguing that community transmission among people already in the country poses a higher risk.

Trilla, in an oft-repeated phrase these days, says it to be best for everyone to simply "stay home."

Another expert that has expressed an opinion on the matter is Oriol Mitjà, a researcher specializing in infectious diseases who is behind the coronavirus trial in Catalonia that began on Monday.

Mitjà contends that current measures are "adequate but insufficient" and says there should be a total lockdown, calling on the Spanish emergency commission to step down for negligence.


  • Workers cleaning the Madrid metro on March 16, 2020

  • Workers cleaning the Madrid metro on March 16, 2020