Wed, 21 Oct 2020

MADRID, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday met the leader of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, in an attempt to find a way to contain the spread of COVID-19 in and around the Spanish capital.

The meeting, held in the offices of the Madrid regional government in the center of the capital, saw the two politicians put their ideological differences aside and set up a "space for cooperation ... with the creation of a 'COVID-19 group' that will hold weekly meetings to address the monitoring of a response to the evolution of the pandemic," according to a communique published by the Community of Madrid.

This group will be made up of Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa; the Minister for Territorial Policy and Public Function Carolina Darias; Enrique Ruiz Escudero, who is responsible for health in the Community of Madrid; and Regional Vice President Ignacio Aguado.

Sanchez said that the group was to hold its first meeting later on Monday.

Also on Monday, restrictions on mobility entered into force in 37 areas of Madrid, which have the highest rates of coronavirus infections.

In these areas, most of which are in the south of Madrid, residents are prohibited from traveling to other parts of the city. Restaurants and bars are limited to 50 percent capacity and must close by 10 p.m. Public parks and gardens are also closed, and meetings are limited to six people.

There are nevertheless a lot of exceptions to the restrictions, with people allowed to move for work, school or university, to care for the elderly, the young or the vulnerable, to visit a bank, or to comply with a bureaucratic obligation. There is also a 'force majeure' clause.

These restrictions, affecting mainly working-class areas, led to protests in Madrid on Sunday, with residents of several areas taking to the streets to complain about what they consider segregation. The protesters pointed out that infection rates are higher in their areas because they are unable to work from home, have to travel by public transport and live in more cramped conditions.

Speaking after Monday's meeting, Ayuso insisted that "the first thing I want to say to the citizens is that we are here to save lives and they should have confidence in us."

Countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.

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