The Community of Madrid is delaying the most stringent and unpopular measures to the maximum to try to stop the expansion of COVID-19 despite the fact that put at the head of contagions last August 7. The Government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso has delayed the obligation to wear masks, restrictions on the hotel industry or weigh specific confinements while the incidence of the pandemic in the community advanced without remission.
This Wednesday, Antonio Zapatero, Deputy Minister of Public Health and the COVID Plan, the one who has advanced that the Executive already plans lockdowns in certain neighborhoods or localities. However, those closest to President Ayuso have denied, not publicly, that this measure was prepared. The internal mess has caused the appearance of the government spokesman, Ignacio Aguado, to be suspended after the last Governing Council. The decision has been suspended in the air and has been delayed, again. It will take place “this week”, according to the message distributed hours later by the Diaz Ayuso communication service.
The mandatory mask
The strategy of transferring normality and control by the Community of Madrid began with the first glimpses of the rebound of the disease last July. The outbreaks in Catalonia made the Generalitat (which had concealed that there was community transmission in Lleida for many days) decreed the mandatory use of a mask in any public place with or without a safety distance.
On July 9, that measure came into effect. On July 10, the Balearic Islands made a similar decision. On the 11th Andalusia was added, where President Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla (Ayuso’s partner in the PP) said that it was “better to prevent.” The incidence of COVID-19 in that community was 4.66 per 100,000 inhabitants at that time. Half that in Madrid. On July 12, Aragon, La Rioja and Navarra joined. By the middle of the month all the autonomous governments had adopted the measure except the Canary Islands and Madrid.
On July 15, Ayuso denied that it was necessary to increase the use of masks: at that time, the accumulated incidence during the last 14 days in Madrid was 9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, so the president saw no need.
It was striking that in this region there were very few new infections or outbreaks while they were accelerating in almost all the rest of the country: “We have learned a lot and we take better care of ourselves,” Ayuso argued in an interview on Telemadrid. Her reflection was the following: “We have to learn to live with these outbreaks. When one arises, it is controlled, the environment of this person is quarantined and it continues with a certain normality because we cannot allow ourselves to stop.” Just 15 days later, the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 in this community had quadrupled to 37 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Then yes, the mandatory use of masks came in any open or closed public space.
Narrow the hospitality
After the transmission of the disease did not stop during the month of August, when September arrived, many autonomous communities have further restricted the activity in bars, restaurants and terraces. Madrid has also been slowing down the decision and has been more permissive, although it had the worst incidence in all of Spain with 520 infections per 100,000 citizens. It was not until September 7 that the Ayuso Executive increased the preventions in this sector: However, it continued to allow activity in the bars of the bars with 50% of the occupation in that space and the interior capacity of the establishments remained at 75%.
At that same time, the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha had ordered that, in the provinces of Ciudad Real and Toledo, the capacity in the catering businesses be limited to 50% in the interior. Outdoor terraces were down to 75%. In addition, in the towns of Santa Olalla, Malpica de Tajo, San Bartolomé de las Abiertas and El Casar de Escalona, a further step was taken on September 12 when the service inside closed premises of hotel and restaurant establishments was abolished. The terraces of bars and restaurants were at 50% capacity.
Days before, on September 1, the Government of Castilla y León had prohibited bar service in the cities of Salamanca and Valladolid. At the tables, groups have been limited to six people. Nor can more than six be grouped on the terraces and consumption must always be seated. Vice President Francisco Igea argued that the measures were “harsh and restrictive” but that they were not “the worst that can happen.” The Board has returned those areas to a phase 1 de-escalation, as analyzed by the autonomous government itself. Castilla y León in general has an incidence of 291 cases, twice less than Madrid. The cities of Valladolid and Salamanca appear in red on the Junta’s map.
Another community that has worrying data, such as Navarra (which has easily exceeded the incidence of 300 infections per 100,000 inhabitants), has also limited groups of people in local restoration to six individuals. The bar closes the service at noon. The Xunta de Galicia has banned the bar in 15 municipalities where, in addition, businesses must have their capacity limited to 50% of the usual.
The focal points of nightlife
Nightlife has been a workhorse during the reactivation of the pandemic. On July 20, the head of the area of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies of the Ministry of Health, María José Sierra, warned that the outbreaks that began in nightclubs were “difficult to trace”, since the search for contacts and can generate many other cases. That day, the Region of Murcia banned nightlife indoors.
Catalunya, once it admitted that the infections had gotten out of control, and with an incidence of 111 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, reached out to nightlife: on July 25 it suspended the activity in the nightclubs, discos and places where there were musical activities and also those establishments where it was possible to dance, at least for 15 days.
Madrid, for its part, has been more reluctant to prevent the activity of these places that have been revealed as a source of infection. At the beginning of August, he established 1.30 in the morning as the working time limit. The businessmen protested with a shutdown on the weekend of August 7. The month progressed until finally and within the inter-territorial agreement of the communities with the Ministry of Health of August 14, the order would come to close the nightlife. The pandemic in Madrid was 162 new infections per 100,000 citizens. Always up.
The point is that the confinement has on many occasions been more of a recommendation than the legal obligation imposed by the state of alarm decreed in March. This Monday, the Generalitat de Catalunya has asked the residents of Girona and Salt that they do not leave home except to work and other essential needs after the infections have doubled in the last 15 days.
However, different autonomous communities have been confining localized areas as they saw that the pandemic accelerated. In July, a perimeter closure was made in the Galician towns of A Mariña and some municipalities in Euskadi. The Segrià region in Lleida where community transmission of the virus was detected was also cordoned off. As in Girona now, residents were asked not to go out except for essential activities in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona.
Castilla y León has used surgical confinement a lot in specific locations to stop accelerated COVID-19 transmissions: on August 7, the Burgos town of Aranda de Duero was confined, which came out of that situation on August 21. This Wednesday this measure was taken in Pesquera de Duero (Valladolid) and Sotillo de la Ribera (Burgos). In the same way, the Valencian Government has confined the municipality of Benigánim (Valencia) for 14 days since August 31 for having triggered the cases of COVID-19.
These very localized confinements have been applied by Cantabria, where its Government last Friday imposed a sanitary cordon to five streets of the La Inmobiliaria neighborhood in Torrelavega, with 6,500 affected by an uncontrolled outbreak that is being tried to contain by conducting massive tests to stop transmission . The experience of Santoña was repeated, where a confinement of these characteristics has managed to stop the rising curve of infections.
The Government of the Balearic Islands launched on September 11 the confinement of the neighborhoods of Son Gotleu, Son Canals, Can Capes and Soledat Nord de Palam to try to contain the disease.
None of this has happened in Madrid, despite the fact that it has jumped from a general incidence of 9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on July 15 to one of 651 on September 15. Díaz Ayuso has made an effort at almost every moment to show an appearance of normality in Madrid. In the first week of September he repeated in an intervention on Antena 3 that “Madrid has a different population density and has additional difficulties for that, but this is also happening to any European capital”. Only ten days later, Antonio Zapatero, the vice-counselor whom she raised after passing through the IFEMA field hospital, has come to contradict this image issued by his president by announcing “selective confinements” of which it is not known, at the moment, nothing else.