Uncertainty in Madrid as court nixes partial virus lockdown

MADRID (AP) — A court in Madrid on Thursday 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 said 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.”

Thursday’s decision means that police won’t be able to fine people for leaving their municipalities without a justification. 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.

Other restrictions not affected by the ruling include a six-person cap on gatherings and limits to restaurant, bar and shop capacity and opening hours.

Madrid has been at the center of a political impasse between Spain’s national and regional authorities that has irked many people, who see more partisan strategy taking place than real action against the pandemic. The two sides were meeting later Thursday.

The 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 Sept. 27.

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

Madrid’s high population density and the fact that it attracts workers from many surrounding areas, Illa said, “make necessary to maintain a reinforced cooperation.”

The regional chief, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has argued that milder measures are already flattening the region’s sharp infection curve and that the partial

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