Spain’s central government and regional authorities in Madrid were on Monday searching for a solution to an impasse on how to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the capital, which has the worst infection rate in Europe.
Health minister Salvador Illa met with his Madrid counterpart Enrique Ruiz Escudero in a bid to find consensus after a weekend of differences laid bare.
Madrid’s regional president, the conservative Isabel Díaz Ayuso has refused to act on the national government’s advice, which is to extend a partial lockdown currently in place for 45 of the hardest-hit healthcare districts to all areas with an incidence rate of more than 500 cases per 100,000.
Such a move would affect the vast majority of the metropolitan area and the outlying region.
Ayuso said it would further “devastate” the Madrid economy but Illa warned that the government would look to intervene in Madrid’s health care response if Ayuso did not rectify her position.
At the end of the state of alarm in June, the power to enforce Covid-19 restrictions was handed from the central government to regional authorities.
To intervene in regional affairs again the Spanish government would likely invoke a law it passed at the end of the state of alarm which allows it to override local authorities.
Illa on Sunday did not specify what action the government could take and said he trusted Ayuso to “rectify” her position in the coming days.
Escudero on Monday urged the government to “frivolize” the concept of imposing direct central government rule in the capital.
Some of the worst-hit areas of Madrid, the majority being lower-income neighborhoods in the city’s south, have an incidence rate of more than 1,000 per 100,000.
Police are now monitoring the perimeters of the affected neighborhoods, whose residents can only leave for work or to care for a dependent.
Spain’s central government is currently run by a coalition between prime minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party and junior partner, left-wing Unidas Podemos.
Madrid’s regional government is in the hands of the conservative Popular Party and center-right Ciudadanos.
Spain reported 31,785 new cases since Friday, of which 42 percent were in Madrid.
The capital recorded 13,449 infections, including 451 in the last 24 hours, and 82 deaths over the weekend of a national total of 179 fatalities.
Almost 26 percent of patients in hospitals in the city were being treated for Covid, compared to a national average of nearly 10 percent. EFE-EPA