Seven white stars on a red background: four free and three caged. This is how the neighborhood platforms that comply with the restrictions approved by the Community of Madrid since Monday have symbolized their discontent. President Isabel Díaz Ayuso ordered selective confinements in the 37 health areas most affected by COVID-19, which some of its inhabitants have perceived as a “discriminatory” and “unworthy” treatment towards the southern neighborhoods, precisely the most overpopulated and impoverished in the region.
Ayuso’s words, who stressed the importance of “avoiding economic disaster at all costs,” did not help. a way to prioritize money over health for experts in epidemiology. “Less police and more health,” read some of the banners in the protests against the measures. “They believe that by creating ghettos they compensate for the lack of resources”, the neighbors clamored. Madrid is by no means the first community to impose these perimeter restrictions, but in other territories they have been accompanied by a prior community intervention plan to help people with difficulties, as has happened for example in the Balearic Islands or Aragon.
“These measures are taken because they have worked in other places, but it remains to be seen what will happen in a metropolitan area like Madrid. What is not seen is a plan to alleviate social inequality that facilitates compliance with the measures, which cannot be take without attending to this primordial matter “, the spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Public Health, Ildefonso Hernández. The community balance would alleviate, according to the experts, the sense of segregation that has permeated Madrid neighborhoods and that can jeopardize respect for the new health regulations.
“Madrid is a city that was segregated before the measures of last Friday, so it is striking that no political representative mentioned inequality,” says Manuel Franco, researcher in Urban Health and Social Epidemiology at the universities of Alcalá and Johns Hopkins. “If you do not name it, do not analyze it or take it into account, it is very difficult for you to work to balance it and so that all those families at risk of exclusion do not feel even more discriminated against,” he says.
“We are forgotten neighborhoods and we oppose these measures. Without us there would be no care, no clean streets and spaces, no food at home, or purified water. Our” way of life “is the majority way of life imposed on us, not the what do we choose “
In its Manifesto for the Dignity of the South, the neighborhood associations of Carabanchel, Villaverde, Usera, Puente or Villa de Vallecas responded to the “racist” statements of the president of the Community of Madrid, who attributed the high incidence of coronavirus to the “way of life” of migrants and the population of these areas. “We are eternally forgotten neighborhoods and that is why we oppose these measures, without us there would be no care, no clean streets and spaces, no food at home, or purified water … because our” way of life “is the majority way of life the one they condemn us for lack of investment, not the one we choose ”, they declare.
Those 856,000 people affected by the measures represent 13% of the total population of the community, a number similar to the 10% that has also been confined within the city of Palma, in Mallorca, and yet they did not rise up against the Balearic Government or the mayor of Palma. “You cannot compare both cities in terms of population density or mobility, but we can learn from what they have done there,” Franco acknowledges.
Social care before imposing restrictions
In Palma, more than 40,000 people have been unable to leave the neighborhoods of Son Gotleu, Can Capes, La Soledat Nord, half of Son Canals and Arquitecte Bennàssar since September 11, except to receive health care, go to school or to work, take care of vulnerable people or due to force majeure. Some exceptions similar to those established by the Madrid order this Monday.
Before decreeing the perimeter confinement, the Balearic Government in collaboration with the Palma City Council designed a community intervention plan. What does it consist of? “There is a team from the Ministry of Health that worked on the ground prior to the announcement of the measure, detected the vulnerable areas of the neighborhoods that it intended to limit and designed a communication and approach strategy,” say those in charge.
In Zaragoza, although the working-class neighborhood of Delicias was not finally confined, the City Council also had designed a prior shock plan. “A social worker or a cultural mediator, accompanied by a volunteer, would go to the home of these people to inform them of their situation, inform them that they have to comply with the isolation at home and verify that they had the necessary conditions for that,” they explained sources of the consistory. Something very similar to what has been applied in the Balearic Islands.
“The Ministry located the families who did not comply with the isolation and it was either because they did not understand or know the security measures, or because their homes prevented it,” explains the mayor of Palma, José Hila, to elDiario.es . “We thought that it was not enough to decree the rules and for the police to intervene: they had to be given alternatives,” he says. It was then that they decided, in collaboration with the Government of the Balearic Islands, to appoint a district councilor and create an action protocol for the most vulnerable people. Both the Aragonese and the Balearic corregidor agree that collaboration between municipal and regional administrations was the key, while in Madrid the mayors criticize that Ayuso’s plan is “absolutely improvised” and demand “technical reports”.
“We spoke with the leaders of the different communities to help us in this task, the neighborhood network has been used, a very powerful platform of entities and, in the most vulnerable cases, we have gone door to door and house to house to see what aid was needed and to inform them of the catalog of municipal aid “, explains the mayor of Palma. These are to give financial or food aid, offer help at home or make health hotels available to them in case of not being able to keep a strict quarantine, among others.
Not creating the atmosphere of a “police state”, for Hila, was decisive when the neighbors felt they were collaborators of the health plan and not only harmed. “Mobility is not prohibited, it is reduced, and it is impossible to have a policeman behind each person to comply,” she says. “Of course their collaboration is important”, but as much as “that of neighborhood organizations.” In contrast, Ayuso agreed yesterday with the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez “the largest police deployment since the state of alarm”.
For Manuel Franco, “thinking that a pandemic can be cured with police measures and not health or social services is a way of misunderstanding Public Health”. Despite the fact that “confinement is the last measure we should take”, the expert claims that the Madrid Salud centers were disabled during the entire pandemic and that precisely they carry out this task of “closer approach to the ordinary citizen and know all the neighborhood associations “. “We must take into account the networks of the districts, but I do not think that the City Council ignores some more than others, it ignores us all and does not think that this is the way to carry out a social intervention,” laments the professor.
“Vulnerable neighborhoods have many needs but they have something else: they are highly organized in their structure. If you use it, you go much further through its own people, but if you ignore it, you become the enemy,” sums up the mayor of Palma, who concludes with what for him is the key to a successful perimeter confinement: “Community work before police intervention.”