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Madrid refuse to lock despite increasing coronavirus crisis


The Madrid leader has turned down calls for a new lockdown on the Spanish capital, despite a mounting crisis in the city with thousands of new coronavirus cases occurring every day.

Isabel Diaz Ayuso said "the solution is not an outright restriction" and called for more help from the Spanish government as new restrictions on parks, shops and restaurants were imposed in another eight districts today.

Ayuso, who has previously argued that "people get run over every day but that doesn't mean we ban cars," opposes stricter restrictions despite the Spanish health minister calling for new measures.

Protesters took to the streets outside Madrid's regional parliament on Sunday. Hundreds of people called for an end to the restrictions and complained of discrimination against poorer areas of the city.

Madrid has amassed nearly 18,000 new cases in the past week alone and more than 40 percent of its ICU beds are now filled with virus patients, raising fears of a return to the dark days of March and April.

Spain as a whole has more than 10,000 cases per day and an average of 350 people are hospitalized every 24 hours. It is warned that the UK will follow in his footsteps if the epidemic is not brought under control.

The second wave continued to spread across Europe:

  • Bars to be closed early in Paris and other “danger zones” in France where public gatherings are limited to 10 people;
  • Angela Merkel warned that Germany could hit nearly 20,000 cases a day by Christmas if current trends continue;
  • The first cruise ship to return to Greece since the lockdown tested positive by 12 crew members.
  • Brussels is also closing bars and cafes ahead of schedule – warned that half of Belgium's 12,000 bars may not survive the crisis;
  • Russia announced more than 8,000 daily cases for the first time in 104 days, with the elderly instructed to stay at home in Moscow.

In Spain, hospital admissions related to coronaviruses have increased in the second wave of infections, although they have not yet reached the peak reached in the spring

Madrid regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso (pictured) turned down calls to lock down the city despite a surge in coronavirus cases

Madrid regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso (pictured) declined calls to lock down the city despite a surge in coronavirus cases

Lockdown part deux: Paris bars close early while public gatherings are limited to 10am

Paris will enact tough new regulations to slow the surge in coronavirus cases.

The government of Emmanuel Macron has ordered bars in Paris, along with Lyon and nine other cities, to close on "heightened alert" starting this evening at 10 p.m.

There is also a 10 person limit on public gatherings with attendees at weddings and parties, which are limited to 30 people.

Gyms and other indoor sports facilities will also remain closed and all pedestrians must wear face masks in public areas of the capital.

The move comes as Macron tries to avoid a full lockdown across the country as the French economy is set to shrink 8.7 percent this year.

New rules have surfaced across France, including in Marseille, where bars and restaurants have to close for a week.

Local business owners and officials protested the shutdown after the announcement was made last week.

It comes as France recorded 11,123 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 27 deaths yesterday.

The new measures introduced in Paris are also coming as France is running out of hospital capacity.

Doctors in the capital, together with Marseille, had to postpone planned operations to free up space.

Patients are still facing residues caused by the March and April lockdown – and more than 6,000 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in French hospitals.

And at least 10 percent of French intensive care beds are now occupied by COVID patients.

The French government recently announced it would inject EUR 100 billion (£ 91 billion) into the economy as part of a recovery plan.

The worsening second wave has led the Spanish government to forecast a worse economic slump in 2020 than previously forecast.

Official forecasts are being revised from a decline of 9.3 percent to 10 to 11 percent, the local media said on Sunday.

The budget deficit is also likely to be worse than the 10.3 percent of GDP target announced in May.

The Spanish economy recorded a record in the second quarter of 17.8 percent compared to the previous quarter and 21.5 percent compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

Leading indicators in August showed that the recovery initiated in July slowed in the summer as the second wave began to rise.

In Madrid, more than every fifth test is positive – by far the highest rate in Spain.

The infection rate in Madrid of 722 cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days is also the highest in Spain, compared with a national figure of 282.

The city and its surroundings are at the epicenter of the second wave of infections. Catalonia urges its people not to travel to Madrid.

Madrid had 455 people in intensive care last Friday, filling 40.1 percent of the beds in the intensive care unit, while 25.4 percent of the total hospital capacity is used for Covid-19 patients.

In Spain as a whole it is 17.2 percent of intensive care beds and 8.1 percent of hospital beds.

France is also seeing pressure on hospitals as medics in Paris and Marseille are forced to postpone planned surgeries to free up space.

Patients are still facing residues caused by the March and April lockdown and more than 6,000 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in French hospitals.

Restaurants and bars in Marseille are closing for a week, causing trouble for business owners who say they are "getting back on their feet".

At the weekend, two Nobel Prize-winning economists suggested that France should be closed for the first three weeks of December so that families can safely meet for the end of the year holidays and “save Christmas”.

In response, Health Minister Olivier Veran told French television: "We don't want to restrict the country again."

France currently has an average of more than 12,000 cases a day, up from 4,000 a month ago, and the number of hospital deaths has risen to an average of almost 50 a day.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is deeply concerned about the rise in cases because "we can see from some of our European friends where this could lead".

Merkel told party colleagues that the daily cases could jump from currently around 1,800 to almost 20,000 per day if the trends continue.

The Chancellor's warning came a day before she was supposed to hold a video conference with the Prime Ministers of the 16 German federal states about the next measures to contain infections.

"The development of the number of infections is very important to us," said her spokesman Steffen Seibert today.

The death toll in Germany has risen in the last week with an average of 11 deaths per day, the highest level since June.

In Belgium, the Brussels authorities are ordering bars and cafes to close at 11 p.m. and other businesses to sell groceries at 10 p.m.

According to the Belgian café association, half of the country's 12,000 bars may not survive the coronavirus crisis.

Spain is experiencing the worst resurgence in Covid-19 cases in Western Europe, followed by France, but the UK's top medical experts have warned the UK could follow suit

Spain is experiencing the worst resurgence in Covid-19 cases in Western Europe, followed by France, but the UK's top medical experts have warned the UK could follow suit

In Spain and France, the post-boom death toll has also increased in some cases

In Spain and France, the post-boom death toll has also increased in some cases

MADRID CASES: Infections in the Spanish capital have risen sharply in recent weeks as the country suffers the worst “second wave” in Europe

MADRID CASES: Infections in the Spanish capital have risen sharply in recent weeks as the country suffers the worst “second wave” in Europe

As of last Monday, 850,000 people in 37 mainly low-income districts in southern Madrid have been confined to their neighborhoods.

They can only leave for work, school, or medical reasons – although they can move freely in their own areas.

Parks in the affected neighborhoods are closed and restaurants and other businesses must close at 10 p.m. in a country with a late-eating tradition.

As of today, Madrid's regional government extends the restrictions to eight additional districts, which are home to an additional 167,000 people.

Hundreds of people in the Vallecas district, one of the neighborhoods that have been partially closed since last week, protest against the restrictions on Sunday.

"It's not a lockdown, it's segregation!" The crowd sang as they briefly blocked a street in front of the gathering.

"They do not limit the rich," was one of the signs of the protest, in which groups of young people, retired couples and young parents took part.

Similar smaller demonstrations took place in other parts of the city, including at the Madrid regional government headquarters in Puerta del Sol square.

"There is no point in going to work in a more affluent area but not having a drink," said electrician Marcos Ruiz Guijarro.

"The infections are increasing everywhere, the rules should be the same for everyone," said the 27-year-old, who drives to work in central Madrid every day.

Some experts doubt whether the measures will be successful, as more than 85 percent of workers affected by the new regulations commute to zones without work restrictions, according to a study by the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

Many protesters complained that the regional government was unable to improve public health services or could do nothing to reduce overcrowding in the transport system. They said the virus could spread easily.

Police clashed with protesters during demonstrations against the lockdown measures in Madrid on Sunday

Police clashed with protesters during demonstrations against the lockdown measures in Madrid on Sunday

The protesters clapped in unison, demanding the resignation of regional leader Ayuso, who is under fire for saying that the “lifestyle” in the affected neighborhoods is partly responsible for the rise in cases.

According to its own information, the regional government has addressed areas in which the infection rate is over 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

However, National Health Minister Salvador Illa urged Madrid to extend restrictions to the entire city as well as surrounding areas with more than 500 cases per 100,000.

He warned that hospitals in the region of around 6.6 million people are already inundated with coronavirus cases and should prepare for some "tough weeks".

On Sunday, he again called on the Madrid regional government to "review the measures announced and follow the recommendations of scientists and health experts".

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21, responsibility for fighting the pandemic has been transferred to the 17 autonomous regions of Spain.

Antonio Zapatero, deputy chief of health for the Madrid region, said more time was needed to review whether the current restrictions are having an impact.

"What we do, we do according to technical criteria," said Zapatero, adding: "If decisions have to be made, Madrid will make them."

Spain's first wave lockdown was one of the toughest in the world, with movement not seen as a valid excuse for leaving the home.

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