Madrid at 'serious risk' without tougher COVID-19 rules, health minister warns

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s health minister urged authorities in Madrid on Saturday to tighten restrictions in the coronavirus hotspot, warning that the capital’s residents and surrounding regions were at “serious risk” without tougher curbs.

Madrid extended a partial lockdown on Friday in several dozen districts with high infection rates, rejecting national government recommendations for a city-wide lockdown as cases continue to surge in the capital.

“Madrid is in a situation of serious risk and it’s time to act with determination,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference.

“There is a serious risk for inhabitants, for the neighbouring regions,” he said, calling on the capital’s regional authorities to “put the health of citizens first”.

Spain’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 12,272 on Friday from the previous day to 716,481, the highest number in Western Europe. More than 31,000 people have died from COVID-19.

Spaniards endured one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns from March until May, when they were not allowed to leave their homes. But after restrictions were totally lifted on June 21, the pandemic has surged again.

Most of the 45 Madrid districts covered by the new restrictions are high-density, low-income areas, triggering complaints about “class confinement”, including during a protest outside the city assembly late on Friday.

Reporting by Jessica Jones; Editing by Helen Popper