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Coronavirus: Madrid challenges ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in supreme court

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Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida
Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida   -   Copyright  Euronews
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Authorities in Madrid are appealing to Spain’s supreme court over the government’s refusal to ease the capital's lockdown.

Madrid's regional government said it believes that technical assessments over what areas can loosen restrictions — adopted to stem the COVID-19 outbreak — are not being applied in the same way across the country.

On Wednesday Spain's lockdown was extended for a further two weeks until June 7. Small shops have reopened in most of the country, but not in hard-hit Madrid and Barcelona. Travel between provinces remains strictly limited.

The region of Madrid is Spain's worst-affected area. It has recorded almost 67,000 of the country’s 232,000 COVID-19 cases.

Madrid mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, told Euronews about the difficulty of balancing economic and health concerns.

"We have all the scenarios planned for moving on from phase one because it’s important for us to be able to face up to the economic crisis and social emergency in which we are immersed,” he told our reporter, Carlos Marlasca.

For the epicentre of Spain’s coronavirus epidemic, there is still a long road ahead before normality returns. Some of the sectors that contribute most to Madrid’s GDP and generate most employment, such as hotels and restaurants, have been severely hit.

"The plan is based on one premise: security. What we have to convey to those who want to come and stay in the city and the hotels of Madrid, to all those tourists who want to come to the city, is that there is sufficient security – for them to understand that Madrid will not be an unsafe city nor will there be outbreaks,” Martínez-Almeida said.

The mayor has held meetings with his counterparts in Paris, London and Berlin to discuss how to get cities back up and running again while protecting public health, and how to introduce social distancing in normally crowded areas.

"We all agree that there must be a change from the point of view of the use of urban space, that there must also be a change in mobility habit,” he said.

“We want to move towards a city where it is not necessary to make such long journeys, where everything can be closer together".

Madrid has been the scene of protests against the lockdown and Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Although the mayor belongs to the conservative opposition Popular Party, he has maintained a moderate attitude towards the executive. And he defends the protestors’ right to be heard.

"I am not worried that the citizens can protest and in a democracy we should not be worried that the citizens can exercise their legitimate right to protest. What worries me is when governments do not have enough answers to that protest, or governments try to stigmatize peaceful protests that may occur,” he said.

You can watch the interview with José Luis Martínez-Almeida in the video player above.