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Sept. 18, 2020, 4:53 p.m. EDT

Emergency tents, restrictions back as virus spikes in Madrid

The Spanish capital’s rate of transmission is more than double the national average, which already leads European contagion charts

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By Associated Press

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The center-right coalition government in Madrid has been in turmoil, part internal infighting and part external criticism, as it struggled this week on what to do next. Díaz Ayuso has also been one of the biggest critics of the response to the pandemic by the national government, a left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Her government recovered control to handle the response in late June, once the central government lifted a state of emergency that had reined in a devastating first wave of the virus. But since then, Díaz Ayuso had been complaining that Sánchez’s government wasn’t helping enough.

After weeks exchanging blame for inaction, Sánchez and Díaz Ayuso have agreed to meet Monday with the only goal of “bending the curve,” both governments announced Friday.

Part of the concern is Madrid’s capacity to spread infections to other parts of the country. Home to 3.3 million people in its urban area and as many more in its surrounding region, the city is also Spain’s economic powerhouse. It’s also centrally located at the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, bringing in workers from nearby provinces and visitors from elsewhere.

But so far it’s health centers that are shouldering the worst of the crisis. Famously underfunded for years, primary care doctors and nurses are now also performing thousands of virus tests per day, and have taken the burden of tracing contacts of those who come out as positive.

That’s causing increasingly longer delays in providing test results, leaving people like Raquel López, a 39-year-old sociologist on her 21st week of pregnancy, in self-imposed home isolation for five days as she waited to find out whether she had the virus.

Raquel, who took the test on Monday after finding out that a family she spent time with a week earlier had contracted the virus, was finally told on Friday that she’s negative. For days, nobody picked up the phone at her local health center, she said.

“But it could had been either way,” said López, who works from home. “My husband and I have been responsible and we haven’t gone out while waiting for the results, but what happens with people who can’t afford to miss work? Are they going to wait at home or go out there possibly infecting others?”

López lives in Vallecas, one of the working class neighborhoods where the new restrictions will be imposed from Monday. She’s angry at officials who promote the idea that people in impoverished areas are to blame for not using masks, keeping social distancing or completing quarantines.

“That’s not true. We are doing it the same way as the rest of Madrid,” she said. “The truth is that citizens are behaving much better than politicians.”

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