Madrid asks for help from Spanish army against coronavirus surge as new lockdown starts

MADRID (REUTERS, AFP) – The regional chief of Madrid requested on Monday (Sept 21) help from the army to fight the coronavirus surge in and around the Spanish capital where local authorities have ordered a partial lockdown of some poorer areas, prompting protests during the weekend.

“We need help from the army for disinfection … and to strengthen local police and law enforcement,” Isabel Diaz Ayuso told a news briefing after meeting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in an attempt to reduce contagion in Spain’s worst-hit region.

She also requested makeshift hospitals to be set up in the capital again, about three months after they were decommissioned when Spain emerged from its strict lockdown having reduced the number of infections.

At the height of the first wave of the epidemic in March-April, Spain deployed thousands of troops to help with the anti-coronavirus effort.

A million people in and around the Spanish capital on Monday were under the new lockdown.

The restrictions in Madrid will last for two weeks, affecting people living mainly in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods who will be allowed only to travel for essential reasons such as work, medical care or taking children to school.

Police cars stopped vehicles at random on a main avenue in Puente de Vallecas, a working class neighbourhood in southern Madrid, to check if people had a valid reason to leave the area.

Most accepted the measures with resignation but some complained that the restrictions were not imposed across the affected region.

“You can’t close one part of a neighbourhood and not another one, one street yes, and one street no. So, either you close everything, which will be catastrophic, or you close nothing,” said Alejandro Campos, a 30-year-old travel agent.

“But first, I think that we should do something with the metro, for example. Here in Puente de Vallecas we have one of the most crowded stations in Madrid,” he said.

But Gustavo Ojeda, 56, said “something had to be done” because of the new outbreaks.

Authorities in Spain – among the worst-hit nations in the world – have insisted the step is necessary because virus cases in those districts were much higher than the national average.

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