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Business as usual? Little enforcement of Madrid's new lockdown

* New restrictions in place for Europe’s COVID hotspot

* But little evidence of travel ban being enforced

* Socialising also curtailed to curb infections

MADRID, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Madrid residents were largely going about business as usual on Monday despite a prohibition on non-essential travel in the first European capital to return to lockdown due to the resurgent coronavirus.

Local police said 300 officers were manning 60 checkpoints, but commuters were pouring into the Spanish capital as normal and few had noticed extra controls.

With 850 COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, the Madrid area has Europe’s highest rate, so 4.8 million people in the Spanish capital and nine satellite towns came under new lockdown measures from Friday night.

“I haven’t seen any police controls. I don’t quite understand this situation that they have created,” said nutrition student Cristina Canete.

Worried about further economic damage, the conservative-led regional authority only reluctantly agreed to the new measures on orders of the socialist-led national government.

It has launched a legal challenge.

‘NO CHANGE’

Another student, Ines Torres, said she had seen little evidence of checkpoints around the Moncloa neighbourhood, which is home to Madrid’s biggest university and one of the main intercity bus terminals.

“I live here and I haven’t noticed any change, nothing,” she said.

Under the new rules, residents can only cross city boundaries for work, school, health or shopping. Bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m. instead of 1 a.m, while gatherings of more than six people remain banned.

The government has warned of fines for transgressors and some “Madrilenos” cancelled weekend leisure or family plans.

With contagion rates rising too in several other regions, authorities were imposing the same restrictions on some other places, including in parts of northern Castile Leon region.

In total, Spain has suffered 32,086 coronavirus fatalities and 789,932 confirmed cases - the worst in Western Europe.

Reporting by Silvio Castellanos, Michael Gore and Emma Pinedo; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Inti Landauro and Andrew Cawthorne

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