Police set up traffic stops on roads into Madrid in travel lockdown

Police set up traffic stops on major roads into Madrid in travel clampdown after city became first European capital to be plunged back into lockdown

  • Madrid headed back into lockdown at 10pm last night amid rise in cases  
  • Some 4.8 million residents in capital will be barred from leaving the area  
  • Recored 850 cases per 100,000 people according to World Health Organization

Police set up controls and stopped cars on major roads into and out of Madrid on Saturday as the city went back into lockdown due to surging coronavirus cases.

Some 4.8 million people are barred from leaving the capital area, while restaurants and bars must shut early and reduce capacity by half.

The new restrictions, which started on Friday evening, are not as strict as the previous lockdown in March, when people were barred from leaving their homes.

A local police officer checks a driver’s identification in a traffic checkpoint, to control people’s movement in Madrid today 

Spanish policemen stand guard in a roadblock in the Moncloa district of Madrid, Spain today

Residents in the Spanish capital of Madrid will be barred from leaving the area under the new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Government. Pictured: A traveller walks through Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas international airport.

However, authorities advised residents not to move around unless absolutely necessary. Travel is banned except for work, school, health or shopping.

‘There are fewer people then we’re used to, shops are empty, bars are empty, there’s a feeling of sadness,’ said Valerio Rojo, director of the Circulo de Bellas Artes cultural organisation.

‘We had reservations but a lot of people have called to cancel them,’ said Macarena Molina, who works in a hostel in central Madrid. ‘Today, we had a reservation through Booking and they cancelled just an hour before saying they were not going to travel because of the restrictions.’

The latest measures ordered by the Socialist-led central government were reluctantly imposed by the conservative-led Madrid government, which said they would cripple the economy.

Health workers from the Madrid Emergency Service (SUMMA) carry out antigen tests for residents in Vallecas, Madrid

Police in Madrid stand at check points through the city as the capital enters another lockdown

Madrid’s bars and restaurants must close at 11pm instead of 1am, while restaurants, gyms and shops must cut capacity by half. Gatherings of more than six people remain banned.

Near the Plaza Mayor square, usually packed with tourists on a Saturday lunchtime, waiter Luis stood, menu in hand, trying to drum up business.

‘No one is walking past here,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how much longer we are going to keep our jobs.’ 

‘Nothing has changed, it’s just like any other day in the neighbourhood,’ shrugged Martinio Sanchez on a busy street in Madrid. 

‘They should have done this in August and maybe we wouldn’t be where we are right now,’ said this 70-year-old as he walked his dog through the eastern neighbourhood of Ciudad Lineal.

A man looks at  the arrivals screen at Adolfo Suarez-Madrid Barajas international airport as the city prepares to go into a local lockdown

A team of health workers prepare to take swabs from people in Vallecas, Madrid, as the capital records a rising number of coronavirus cases

Under the new restrictions, the city’s borders closed to non-essential travel and gatherings will be limited to six people. Pictured: People queue for an antigen test in Vallecas, Madrid

Some 4.5 million people are affected by the closure, which came into force at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) on Friday as the region battles the highest rate in the European Union. 

‘It affects me because because I work outside Madrid and I cannot move around with the freedom I’d like to,’ 45-year-old sales manager Alberto Sanchez told AFPTV, saying the regional government should have acted much earlier.

‘It could have been different if the Madrid region had done its homework and started hiring contact tracers four months ago and following advice from Europe and the government,’ he fumed.

But inside the city, little appeared to have changed with life largely carrying on as normal on a brilliant October morning with a sharp autumnal chill in the area.

‘Everything’s open and you can’t see police anywhere. We can move around Madrid but you can’t go out to the nearby villages or to the mountains,’ says Feliza Sanchez, 78.

‘I don’t know how this is going to change the situation we have at the moment.’

A waiter disinfects a table at a bar terrace in Leganes, Madrid, Spain today 

Sitting on a bar stool nursing a beer and a slice of Spanish omelette, Jorge Alvarez said the restrictions wouldn’t have much impact on his life.

‘In principle, nothing will change. I will continue to live a normal life because you can’t lock yourself up inside your house and not work,’ said Alvarez, a 49-year-old metal worker.

‘Who knows if it will stop the virus spreading? But obviously people in the bar and restaurant industry are going to lose a lot of money,’ he said. 

For those in the bar and restaurant sector, who must reduce their indoor seating capacity by half and close by 11.00pm, the new rules are a huge blow, particularly in a country where people tend to socialise late into the night.

‘It’s going to affect us terribly,’ said Baldomero Cubas, 50, who manages the Cerveceria Santa Ana in the city centre.

‘With this measure many bars will think about closing, because if we were struggling before, now we can only have 60 percent seating capacity outside and 50 percent inside. And on top of that, with closing by 11, we’re looking at a loss rather than breaking even.’

And some fear they simply won’t survive, such as Jorge Luis Ortega Pina, who owns the Degustando tavern, a tiny but popular bar in Ciudad Lineal with counter seating for barely 15 people.

‘I will almost certainly have to close,’ the 50-year-old says, standing behind a gleaming counter. He adds that he has done everything possible to try and create distance between customers.

‘With these restrictions I will be lucky to bring in 1,500 euros ($1,750) a month and we are a family of four. I’ve no idea how I’m going to manage.’

People, he said, had been brought to their knees by the economic devastation caused by pandemic which had left many people struggling to survive, even with financial help from the government.

‘There are going to be riots in the street,’ he warned, saying even the charity sector was struggling with the sheer numbers of people in need.

‘Caritas is overwhelmed, the Red Cross is overwhelmed, everything is just falling apart,’ he said   

With 850 cases per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, the Madrid area has Europe’s worst rate.

Spain had 789,932 coronavirus cases as of Friday, up by 11,325 since Thursday, and there have been 32,086 fatalities. Daily deaths are around their highest levels since early May although far below the late March record of nearly 900.

 

  

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