Madrid judge questions legality of fresh COVID-19 measures

In a statement issued on Saturday (23 August), the national association for nightlife industry and Spain Nightlife urged the government to offer “clarity” on the situation. [Enrique Campo Bello/Shutterstock]

A Madrid judge’s ruling scrapping the regional government’s new coronavirus restrictions has thrown up questions about the legality of implementing such extraordinary measures, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

After the number of Spain’s daily coronavirus cases hovered above 3,000 for much of last week, new measures such as a ban on smoking in public places and the temporary closure of night clubs were introduced last week by Madrid’s regional government.

Madrid aims to stem community transmission of the virus especially among young people.

However, the judge argued that the measures were not underpinned by legislation and infringed on human rights, and created uncertainty in the capital city’s nightlife industry.

In response to the judge’s ruling, Antonio Zapatero, who is currently leading the Madrid government’s COVID-19 plan, called for a “certain uniformity” on Saturday (22 August) when it came to the judicial approach to new coronavirus measures, adding that the regional government would appeal against the ruling.

According to the latest data on Friday, the country recorded 3,650 new COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, a third of which were reported in Madrid, which is once again becoming a hotspot.

Officials in the Spanish capital have already recommended that people living in the worst-affected neighbourhoods — predominantly densely-populated and low-income areas in the south — to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.

Since the end of the state of alarm, the mechanism that underpinned the nationwide lockdown two months ago, all new coronavirus restrictions introduced must be approved by a region’s autonomous government and its justice system.

Although a number of regions have adopted similar measures recently, only in Madrid were they challenged by a judge, who argued that the national government must issue such rules.

For the moment, the national government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has ruled out decreeing another state of alarm.

The ruling in Madrid prompted discontent in the city’s nightlife sector.

In a statement on Saturday, the national association for nightlife industry and Spain Nightlife urged the government to offer “clarity” on the situation.

It said the industry was “key” for tourism, employed some 300,000 people and accounted for 1.8% of the country’s GDP.

Spain has documented over 386,000 coronavirus cases and more than 28,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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