Photo taken on Oct. 9, 2020 shows an emergency cabinet meeting in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish government on Friday decreed a 15-day State of Alarm with immediate effect for the Madrid region to limit the spread of coronavirus. (La Moncloa/Handout via Xinhua)
MADRID, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish government on Friday decreed a 15-day State of Alarm with immediate effect for the Madrid region to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The decision was taken in an emergency cabinet meeting called 24 hours after a Madrid court had struck down a government order that imposed restrictions on mobility in the Madrid municipality and nine other municipalities in the region, arguing that limiting movement infringed "fundamental" rights.
At a press conference held after the cabinet meeting, Health Minister Salvador Illa explained that "last week 63 people died of COVID-19 in the Community of Madrid. Currently 3,369 people are in hospital in the Community of Madrid, 498 of them are in intensive care fighting for their lives."
The State of Alarm re-imposes mobility restrictions on around five million inhabitants in the region and retains the limit of 50 percent occupancy in bars, restaurants and gymnasiums. A maximum of six people are allowed to meet in public or private.
The central government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has acted quickly to impose the regional State of Alarm because this Friday sees the start of a long weekend in Spain and it is deemed important to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from leaving the capital for other parts of the country.
"We could cross our arms and do nothing or take action, and the obligation of this government is to stop the spread of the virus, lower the rates of infection and protect the residents of Madrid and everyone else in Spain," Illa said.
According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, on Thursday the Madrid region had an incidence rate of 563 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, almost twice the country's average. In the previous seven days, 15,322 new cases were confirmed.
Spain had imposed a national State of Alarm from mid-March to June. A State of Alarm is the first of three emergency levels a Spanish government can apply under exceptional circumstances, with the others being "A State of Exception" and "Martial Law" (Estado de Sitio). A State of Alarm grants the government special powers to limit the movement of citizens.
As the world is struggling to control the pandemic, countries across the globe -- among them Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 2, there were 193 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, 42 of them in clinical trials. Enditem