MADRID (Reuters) – A clash between Madrid’s regional authorities and the Spanish government over how to contain the city’s surging coronavirus caseload is provoking growing discontent among residents in poorer areas who say they have been unfairly targeted.
The region extended a partial lockdown on Friday to 45 districts with high infection rates, the majority of which are in low-income neighbourhoods, prompting accusations of class discrimination from residents and concern from the national government, which wants even wider restrictions.
“The politicians can’t agree among themselves and the poor are always the worst affected,” said Daisy Mencia, a resident of the working-class Vallecas neighbourhood, which is entering its second week of confinement measures.
Health Minister Salvador Illa urged the conservative regional leader on Monday to listen to the recommendations from the left-wing central government after having rejected its recommendation to reimpose city-wide restrictions.
“Tough, complicated weeks are coming, in which we must act with determination, to rein in the pandemic, to bend the curve, and if we do not do it, we will have to take even tougher decisions,” Illa said.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso, regional leader of Madrid, the worst-hit region in Spain, said on Sunday that total confinement was not possible due to the economic impact.
“We’re destroying ourselves … I don’t know how many companies continue to lose jobs and opportunities every single day,” Ayuso told Antena 3 television on Sunday night.
Over the past days, the national and regional governments have traded barbs over what to do and who was to blame for the growing number of cases in Madrid and its periphery, taking the political polarisation that has characterised much of the response to the pandemic over the past months to new heights.
Pensioner Victor Rubio told Reuters that was deplorable.
“They aren’t looking at things with a view to fixing the problem but from a political perspective. They’re just attacking an area where people opposed to the (regional) government live.”
Spain has recorded 31,785 new coronavirus cases since Friday, bringing its total to 748,266 – more than any other Western European nation.
The total number of COVID-19 fatalities rose by 179 to 31,411, including 18 deaths registered in the past 24 hours. Daily deaths are now around their highest levels since early May, but below the late March record of nearly 900.
(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos and Raul Cadenas; additional reporting and writing by by Nathan Allen and Jesús Aguado; Editing by Alison Williams)