Madrid back in lockdown as Europe virus cases up

Spain’s government declared a state of emergency and new partial lockdown for virus-hit Madrid on Friday after a court struck down previous measures, in a sign of the difficult battles waged across a restriction-weary Europe.

While full lockdowns in March and April were largely accepted, governments are facing increased resistance as they try to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections at the start of autumn.

In Madrid, restrictions from the central government barring people from leaving the city except for work, school or medical reasons have been loudly opposed by rightwing city authorities and were rejected by a regional court on Thursday.

In response, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the Socialist-led government would declare a state of emergency, giving it powers to reimpose the measures on 4.5 million people in and around the capital.

“Protecting the health of Madrid’s people is absolutely essential,” Illa said.

The resistance in Madrid echoes problems the French government faced last month when it shut bars and restaurants in the southern port of Marseille, where local representatives reacted with fury.

Partial shutdowns have since been extended to Paris and other major urban areas, while another four French cities were placed on maximum coronavirus alert on Thursday, meaning they will have to shut bars and limit public gatherings.

The data offers little respite, with more than 20,000 new cases reported on Friday

The European Union tried to bring some order to the travel chaos created by a fast-changing situation, agreeing on a traffic light system to identify risk areas and set recommendations, though it will remain voluntary for individual countries. (Hazel Ward and AFP bureaus)