Spain's health minister, Salvador Illa, has proposed a coordinated approach to limit mobility in all municipalities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, where there are more than 500 Covid cases over a fourteen-day period. Other criteria are a positive test rate of higher than ten per cent and occupancy of intensive care units above 35%. In addition to mobility, social contacts would be limited, opening hours reduced and health assistance capacity reinforced.
This proposal followed a further meeting with the Madrid regional government's health minister, Enrique Ruiz Escudero. There have been disagreements between the Spanish and Madrid governments regarding criteria to be applied to stop the spread of coronavirus in the region.
Illa said that there have been "favourable" discussions with health ministers in other regions. If the criteria now agreed with Madrid apply, they will be adopted elsewhere. The extension of these criteria to other municipalities was necessary in getting Madrid's agreement.
The Interterritorial Council for the National Health System, of which all regional health ministers are members, met on Wednesday, with Illa hopeful that the measures will come into force as soon as possible. He stressed that the situation in Madrid is "very worrying" and requires determined action. There are 780 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with ICU occupancy of around 40% and a positive test rate above 20%.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recently set a threshold of 60 cases per 100,000 for action to be taken. There are "very concerning situations when there are accumulated incidents of 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants".
Illa added that "it is necessary to take control of the pandemic and bend the curve". The government, he said, is there to "solve problems" and has always maintained "very active" coordination with the regional authorities, which have responsibilities for adopting measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Eleven municipalities, including Madrid, currently have more than 500 cases. The other ten are Móstoles, Alcalá de Henares, Fuenlabrada, Leganés, Getafe, Alcorcón, Torrejón de Ardoz, Parla, Alcobendas and Pamplona.
As of the start of January last year, there are 63 municipalities in Spain with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Madrid and Barcelona top the list in terms of population, with Palma being the only municipality which falls into this category in the Balearics. Others include Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga, Murcia, Las Palmas, Bilbao, Alicante and La Coruña.
* Four regions - Andalusia, Catalonia, Galicia and Madrid - plus the north African city of Ceuta voted against the 100,000 inhabitants' proposal. For the moment, therefore, there is no agreement.