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Discontent simmers as Spanish authorities spar over Madrid lockdown

A health worker stands inside Intensive Care Unit at La Paz hospital amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Madrid, Spain September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez reuters_tickers
This content was published on September 28, 2020 - 15:43

By Silvio Castellanos and Raul Cadenas

MADRID (Reuters) - A clash between Madrid's regional authorities and the Spanish government over how to contain the city's surging coronavirus caseload is provoking growing discontent among residents in poorer areas who say they have been unfairly targeted.

"The politicians can't agree among themselves and the poor are always the worst affected," said Daisy Mencia, a resident of the working-class Vallecas neighbourhood, which is entering its second week of confinement measures.

Madrid extended a partial lockdown on Friday to a total of 45 districts with high infection rates, the majority of which are in low-income neighbourhoods, prompting accusations of class discrimination.

But the region's conservative leaders reject the left-wing national government's recommendation to reimpose city-wide restrictions.

"Total confinement isn't possible," regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso told Antena 3 television on Sunday night. "We're destroying ourselves...I don't know how many companies continue to lose jobs and opportunities every single day," she said.

Over the past days, the national and regional governments have traded barbs over what to do and who was to blame for the growing number of cases in Madrid and its periphery, taking the political polarisation that has characterised much of the response to the pandemic over the past months to new heights.

Pensioner Victor Rubio told Reuters that was deplorable.

"They aren't looking at things with a view to fixing the problem but from a political perspective. They're just attacking an area where people opposed to the (regional) government live."

Since the onset of the pandemic Spain has reported 716,481 cases of the virus - more than any other Western European nation - while a total of 31,232 deaths have been recorded, according to data released on Friday. Madrid is the worst-hit region in Spain.

(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos and Raul Cadenas; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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