Residents in some poorer areas of Madrid that are facing lockdown to stem a soaring COVID-19 infection rate took to the streets on Sunday to protest for better health provisions, complaining of discrimination by the authorities. Madrid’s regional government on Friday ordered a lockdown from Monday in some of the poorer areas of the city and its outskirts that are home to about 850,000 people after a surge in coronavirus cases there. The lockdown measures predominantly apply to areas of lower income and with higher immigrant populations. Peaceful protests were held in 12 of the 37 districts affected on Sunday.
Vallecas has one of the highest infection rates in the Spanish capital - about six times higher than that of Chamberi, a wealthy area in the north of the city, according to regional government figures. Madrid accounts for a third of all infections in Spain, announced the restrictions in areas where the contagion levels exceed 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. Spain has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in western Europe. 640,040 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Spain, health authorities said on Friday, with a rise of 4,697 in the past 24 hours. Nearly 30,500 people have died.
“It is illogical that you can go and do things in wealthier areas, but you cannot do the same in Vallecas. There is the same risk of contagion. They are discriminating,” said Begona Ramos, 56, a protester, who is self-employed and lives in Vallecas.
Protesters also called for the resignation of Madrid regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who attracted criticism for saying this week that “the way of life of immigrants” was partly to blame for the rise in cases.
Access to parks and public areas will be restricted, gatherings will be limited to six people, and commercial establishments will have to close by 10 p.m. local time. Police will set up 60 checkpoints to enforce the measures, but will not impose fines on the first day, regional authorities said on Sunday. Fines can vary between 600 euros ($710.64) and 600,000 euros, they said. A pass is required for people who need to leave lockdown areas for work.