Madrid and Stockholm – flexible corona measures

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Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Regional President of the Community of Madrid
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Most European cities are setting tighter restrictions against the coronavirus. However the Spanish capital Madrid is already looking for a much looser course of action. A relaxation that is not justified by the epidemiological course. 

Easing to save the economy is a misconception, according to Spanish experts 

In Madrid, 625 people per 100 thousand inhabitants, are still infected with the coronavirus. Stockholm, Sweden, is the only other European capital where citizens have little or no restriction on their freedom of movement.  In Stockholm, the corona control plan is entirely in the hands of the residents’ individual responsibility. 

During a party campaign for the PP in Barcelona, at the end of January, Regional President of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso made it clear about her vision on the corona policy. She stated, “It is criminal that you keep everything closed in Catalonia, with the climate you have”. At the time the incidence rate in Madrid was significantly higher than in Catalonia.  Madrid reached 993 versus 564 in Catalonia per 100 thousand inhabitants. The Madrid regional government has always opted for considerably less stringent measures.  And as a result, the bars were never completely closed. Díaz Ayuso intends to adjust the curfew until 23:00 from this week.  And in addition, to extend the opening hours of the catering industry. Last week, the maximum group on the terraces of the bars and restaurants was increased from four to six people. 

Not guided by corona figures but by own vision 

The easing in Madrid has not much to do with the epidemiological course, but of political defiance. The incidence rate is well above the “extreme risk” threshold of 250.  And the pressure on hospitals in the region is worrisome as more than half of the IC beds here are occupied by covid patients. To have some form of control over the spread of the virus, the percentage of positive test results, must be below 5%.  Currently, this figure is around 20% in Madrid.

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Catering and non-essential shops are closed in almost all European capitals 

A much more conservative policy is pursued in most European capitals. In Lisbon, with a record incidence of 2,123 infections per 100 thousand inhabitants, all catering, commerce, and cultural institutions are closed. But other European capitals, where the epidemiological course is more favourable than in Madrid, are also applying stricter measures. In Berlin (with an incidence of 120), London (382), Athens (111), Paris (237), Amsterdam (124) and Brussels (250) all catering establishments are closed. In Rome (251), the catering industry closes at 6 p.m. And while in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Berlin and Athens all museums, cinemas and theaters remain closed, in Madrid they are open until 10 p.m. Also, unlike other European capitals, Madrid keeps all non-essential stores open until 9:00 PM. 

The only other European capital that has a flexible corona policy is Stockholm (with an incidence of 388). Residents here have retained almost all their freedoms since the start of the pandemic. However, at the beginning of January, when the contamination figures rose too high, stricter measures were implemented.  These measures are still much more lenient than in the rest of Europe. All shops and catering, for example, are open normally. Only the major theaters and cinemas have been requested to close their doors voluntarily. 

Freedoms will lead to closure again 

However, experts in Spain warn of the consequences of these freedoms at a stage where the covid-19 incidence is still far too high. According to the Spanish epidemiologist Salvador Peiró, it is a misconception that the economy can be saved by relaxing measures.  This inevitably leads to higher infection rates, especially with the emerging new virus variants that we must stay one step ahead of. If we fail to do so, the consequences will be major and the catering industry and shops will have to close their doors after all. 

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