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Madrid clashes with central government over tougher COVID restrictions

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Spain's central government is clashing with Madrid's authority over the need for stronger COVID-19 restrictions
Spain's central government is clashing with Madrid's authority over the need for stronger COVID-19 restrictions   -   Copyright  Euronews
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Madrid is clashing with Spain's central government over whether to impose tighter COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Spain's health ministry on Thursday gave regions two days to implement strict new limits.

They include limits on social gatherings and shop opening hours and restricts trips in and out of any large cities that have recorded a two-week infection rate of 500 cases per 100,000 residents.

Countrywide, only Madrid and nine of its suburban towns met the criteria as of Thursday.

Madrid's autonomous authority says it will comply with the order from the central government but would simultaneously challenge it in the courts.

Spain's central government and regional officials in Madrid have been at odds for weeks over how to respond to the pandemic while the spread of the virus in the Spanish capital surged to the highest level in Europe's second wave of infections.

The centre-right Madrid government has resisted the stricter measures in the city of 3.3 million and its suburbs for fears of damaging the economy. Regional chief Isabel Díaz Ayuso also claims that Spain’s national left-wing coalition is targeting Madrid for political reasons and disregarding her efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“This government is not in rebellion,” she said Thursday, pledging to comply with the national order but adding that she would take it to court “to defend the legitimate interests of the people of Madrid so that the measures conform to the regulations, to the reality, so they are objective and fair.”

Speaking at the regional assembly, Díaz Ayuso said her challenge was to avoid a “return to the queues of hunger and unemployment” that she blamed on the national socialist government.

Salvador Illa, Spain's health minister, said action in Madrid was necessary.

"The situation in Madrid is complex and worrying," he said. "Madrid has according to the new data today: 4,810 new cases. It is the second-highest daily increase since the start of the second wave. The cases in Madrid are 43.7% of the total diagnoses in our country."