blocks

Madrid court blocks ‘harmful’ city lockdown

A court in Madrid has struck down a national government order that imposed a partial lockdown in the Spanish capital and its suburbs, siding with regional officials who had resisted stricter measures against one of Europe’s most worrying virus clusters.

The judges say that travel restrictions in and out of the cities and other limitations might be necessary to fight the spread of the virus but that under the current legal form they were violating residents’ “fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Thursday’s decision means that police will not be able to fine people for leaving their municipalities or businesses that want to close later than 10pm for shops and 11pm for restaurants and bars.

It also leaves 4.8 million residents in Madrid and nine suburban towns wondering whether they can travel to other parts of Spain over a long weekend extended by Monday’s national day celebration.

The situation in Madrid has been at the center of a political impasse between Spain’s regional and national authorities that has irked many people, who see more partisan strategy afoot than real action against the pandemic.

Speaking at a parliamentary commission, Health Minister Salvador Illa pledged to “take the judicial decisions that better protect health.”

The Madrid region has a 14-day infection rate of 591 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, more than twice Spain’s national average of 257 and five times the European average rate of 113 for the week ending September 27.

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the catastrophe of converting office blocks to homes

“I can’t work” says Katya. One reason she can’t work is that it takes her 40 minutes to walk to the nearest available school from her housing block in Harlow, Essex, and 40 minutes back, which means that she spends the best part of three hours every day ferrying her young children to and fro. Shops are also a long walk away, apart from a petrol station where you can buy milk and bread for above-average prices. She can’t afford broadband or the devices that access it. “We are really isolated.”

Her flat is small – “if you open the door you hit the bed” – freezing in winter, boiling in summer, and prone to mould. Being on the ground floor, she doesn’t dare open her windows at night. There have been drug dealing and knife fights in her block. There is “always shouting and arguing”, she says. “The children are frightened.”

Her neighbours have similar experiences. Their block is privately owned, but they have been placed there by local authorities desperate to find anywhere to house them. Some have lived there for two or more years, transplanted from London boroughs: it might take two or more hours, and cost £50 or more to return to see friends and family. They have minimal storage space. Bicycles jam the narrow corridors, which would be a hazard in a fire, because, as the residents say, there is nowhere else for them to go. The only outdoor space where the children play is a patch of grass around the refuse bins, or a car park at the front. At one end trucks trundle back and forth, serving a depot for heavy construction machinery at the back. One boy got his head stuck under a truck, mercifully stationary at the time. Pandemic and lockdown

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