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'Victims of improvisation' - Madrid residents vent anger at chaotic sudden lockdown

MADRID, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Madrid’s residents expressed their frustration and confusion on Thursday after municipal authorities grudgingly accepted a city-wide lockdown ordered by the central government following days of fierce political squabbling.

The Madrid region’s COVID caseload of 735 per 100,000 people is double the average in Spain, which has recorded almost 770,000 cases - the highest in Western Europe - and nearly 32,000 deaths. Under the new regulations, all non-essential travel into and out of Madrid and nine nearby cities will be suspended in the coming days, but the precise start of the lockdown has not yet been announced.

“It’s been very chaotic in all senses and this is basically because of the region’s leaders,” architect Jean-Pierre Moncardo complained. “They did absolutely nothing during summer, they took no action and they prioritised business ... We are victims of improvisation.”

People will only be allowed to cross municipal borders for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping.

Teacher Ignacio Rey accepted the need for tough measures to curb infection in what has become Europe’s worst COVID-19 hotspot, but hit out at the seeming lack of a coherent plan.

“It’s a bit desperate, not knowing what’s going to happen from one day to the next,” he said. “But I understand that given how the cases are going in Madrid, lockdown is the only solution.”

French national Sixteene Tripier-Rollin shared his concerns that the measures were rolled out in a hurry and said they lacked any grounding in science.

“We don’t have scientific data and we are just told, ‘you have to do this,’ but we don’t have any explanation, so we are a bit scared and don’t really understand what’s happening.”

Earlier this year Spain imposed one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns, helping it bring down the contagion. But infections have soared since the nationwide confinement ended in mid-June, with cases now rising by more than 10,000 a day.

Retiree Pilar, who didn’t give her last name, said sealing off the city was a step too far. They should lock down sick people but let healthy people continue their normal lives, she said.

Regional authorities said that although they would comply with the central government’s decision to enforce a lockdown they would also appeal it in the courts, so the back and forth and uncertainty for residents may not be over. (Reporting by Michael Gore and Miguel Gutierrez; Writing by Nathan Allen Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alexandra Hudson)

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