In the midst of a political struggle between the Madrid City Council, in the hands of the Popular Party (PP), and the socialist government of Pedro Sánchez, Madrid suffers new restrictions to control the multiplication of covid-19 infections in the second wave of the pandemic that hits Spain. It is the capital of Europe with the highest incidence.
While waiting for time to show the consequences of the new measures, citizens wonder what went wrong to have reached this state.(Also read: The portrait of the delicate situation in Madrid).
Experts agree on some factors. According to epidemiologist Miguel Hernán, in Spain four conditions needed to be met before reaching the ‘new normal’: the leadership of the autonomous communities (departments) to improve care, diagnosis, tracking and isolations; the definition by the central government of clear indicators to facilitate coordination, concrete de-escalation measures designed by multidisciplinary experts and that it be carried out more gradually, and decisions on openings and closings based on constant evaluations.
“The new normal was something else,” he told the newspaper El País.. “This we have experienced has simply been a hasty de-escalation without doing our homework”, added.
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The Ministry of Health and the autonomous communities have not acted with coordination. Local governments determined the restrictions independently. On the other hand, the desire for economic reactivation led many businesses to not fully respect the measures. To this is added the social behavior of the Spanish, given to leisure and meetings. “The young people acted indiscipline during the holidays: they met without taking action”, says pulmonologist Julio Ancochea.
In Italy, by contrast, citizens have respected security measures and have been more disciplined. The reopening was gradual, a close contact tracing is maintained and the population is extensively tested.
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The traces, meanwhile, are more exhaustive. When a person has symptoms, tests are carried out on all those with whom he usually interacts, regardless of whether he has seen them. In Spain it is considered that there has been a contact when they have spent at least 15 minutes together, without masks and without maintaining a safety distance, according to Dr. Fernando Prados.
The virus hit Europe in Italy in early March. Then he went to Spain two weeks later. The figures were similar in the beginning, but today they are very different.
To determine the speed at which the contagion progresses, the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days is measured; in Italy it reaches 33.5, while in Spain it exceeds 300, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
In Italy, the state of emergency continues, giving more power to the central government and facilitating coordination with the regions. In Spain, politicians do not agree on how to combat the virus. And Madrid is a clear example of this.
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During the unfreezing phases, Madrid lagged behind most of the country, while the city council (mayoralty) put pressure on the central government to allow it to advance more quickly. When it reached phase 2, it promised an epidemiological surveillance that it did not comply with and, when the state of alarm ended, it jumped to the ‘new normal’ with lax measures for its high population level (almost seven million inhabitants). In fact, it was one of the last communities to make the use of masks mandatory.
On the other hand, the trackers and primary care (which treats those infected before they need hospitals and prevents them from collapsing) have been insufficient in the capital, which asked the army for help with the scans in August, when several communities already had with her.
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It is part of the struggle between the president of the Madrid community, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of the PP, and the Sánchez government. After the last assault, Díaz Ayuso said that she will take to court the measures imposed by the Ministry of Health against her will. These are mobility restrictions, reduced capacity and prohibition of meetings of more than six people.
“The citizens did their job, accepted the confinements and followed rules such as the use of masks”, said journalist David Jiménez in a column in The New York Times. “The politicians fought among themselves, broke their promises and repeated the mistakes of the first wave of the virus,” he added.
JUANITA SAMPER OSPINA
EL TIEMPO correspondent