Madrid wants military help, more doctors to fight virus wave

Health

Elders wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus sit on a park in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Madrid is poised to extend its restrictions on movement to more neighborhoods, due to a surge in new cases in other districts and despite an outcry from residents over discrimination. Police on Monday deployed to 37 working-class neighborhoods that have seen 14-day transmission rates above 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

MADRID (AP) — Authorities in Madrid want to hire more doctors and get urgent help from Spain’s military and police to fight a second wave of coronavirus infections that might force them into expanding restrictions on free movement that are already controversial.

The Spanish capital needs Spain’s central government to relax regulations so it can hire 300 additional doctors from outside the European Union, regional vice-president Ignacio Aguado said Wednesday.

Madrid also wants central authorities to erect military tents as makeshift facilities to host virus testing, wants soldiers to disinfect public buildings and wants 222 national police deployed by Monday to help enforce quarantines and restrictions in hard-hit areas.

“The situation is not going well, neither in Spain nor in Madrid,” Aguado told a press conference.

Madrid has seen rate of 772 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, nearly three times the national average of 287. In contrast, the European average last week was 76 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days.

Nearly 860,000 Madrid residents are already required to justify trips out of 37 neighborhoods, mostly working-class areas where locals have complained that the coronavirus restrictions are stigmatizing the poor.

But faced with a “sustained increase” of cases in the region of 6.6 million, according to its deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, the regional government is considering expanding those controls to other areas.

A final decision on new restrictions, including new possible limits on customers in restaurants, will be announced Friday, Zapatero told reporters.

Other areas in Spain are also seeing an increase in new virus cases. The country recorded 130 new virus deaths Wednesday, bringing its confirmed death toll to 31,034. Experts say all numbers understate the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing and missed cases.

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