A police officer checks a driver’s documents at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain on Saturday October 3, 2020. Madrid is in a part of the lockdown that corresponds to an order from the Spanish government due to the high COVID-19 cases but has been found to be fighting in court. Measures banning all non-essential journeys in and out of the capital and nine of its suburbs and affecting around 4.8 million people. (AP Photo / Paul White)

Madrid woke up to their first day on Saturday under partial lockdown. The police controlled entry and exit in the Spanish capital, which has become the biggest hot spot in Europe for the second wave of the coronavirus.

The Spanish government’s two-week ban on reluctant regional officials began Friday evening at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The measures ban all non-essential trips to and from the capital and nine of its suburbs, affecting around 4.8 million people. Restaurants must close at 11 p.m. and shops at 10 p.m. and reduce occupancy to 50% of their capacity.

Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the steps were “critical” in halting a growing number of cases and preventing a recurrence of the horrific scenes of March and April, when hospitals were overflowing with dying patients.

Although the measures are small compared to the prison required during the first wave of the virus across Spain, they have sparked a fierce political battle between the left coalition government of Sánchez and the Madrid government, led by a right-wing rival.

The Madrid government, led by Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the Conservative People’s Party, said it would enforce the orders, but has also appealed to the national court in hopes of overturning them. Ayuso and her regional ministers have said the restrictions will cause “chaos”, damage an already weakened economy and violate their jurisdiction as regional authorities.

Madrid begins with a partial virus lockdown amid political turmoil

The police will assemble a checkpoint on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain on Saturday, October 3, 2020. Madrid is on partial lockdown due to high COVID-19 cases in line with an order from the Spanish government but is determined to fight it in court. Measures banning all non-essential journeys in and out of the capital and nine of its suburbs and affecting around 4.8 million people. (AP Photo / Paul White)

Ayuso’s message has reached at least some residents who are politically rather than public health related.

“I think we went to extremes,” said Ángel Davila, a 52-year-old engineer at Atocha train station. “I think the measures they took are incorrect. They are not based on medical information according to my studies. It is now a political matter more than anything.”

Health experts have been calling on Madrid to step up measures for weeks, however, but Madrid health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero argues they are not necessary.

The Ministry of Health ordered compliance after Madrid refused to accept a range of health metrics to determine when cities with populations over 100,000 need to put in place tighter restrictions to contain the virus. The measures were approved by a majority of regional health authorities from the 19 regions of Spain and autonomous cities, with Madrid being in the minority against them.

Madrid begins with a partial virus lockdown amid political turmoil

The police will assemble a checkpoint on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain on Saturday, October 3, 2020. Madrid is on partial lockdown due to high COVID-19 cases in line with an order from the Spanish government but is determined to fight it in court. Measures banning all non-essential journeys in and out of the capital and nine of its suburbs and affecting around 4.8 million people. (AP Photo / Paul White)

Government ordinances only allow people to cross community lines to commute to work, a medical appointment, legal errands, or appointments with a government agency.

The region had already taken similar measures in certain areas, restricting social gatherings to a maximum of six people, but infections continued to increase.

Madrid is leading the resuscitation of the virus in Spain, which has the highest cumulative case number in Europe at 770,000 since the pandemic began.

Madrid begins with a partial virus lockdown amid political turmoil

The police will assemble a checkpoint on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain on Saturday, October 3, 2020. Madrid is on partial lockdown due to high COVID-19 cases in line with an order from the Spanish government but is determined to fight it in court. Measures banning all non-essential journeys in and out of the capital and nine of its suburbs and affecting around 4.8 million people. (AP Photo / Paul White)

The capital had a two-week infection rate of 695 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, more than double the national average of 274 cases and seven times the European average, which was 94 per 100,000 people last week according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention .

According to the Ministry of Health, over 32,000 people have died from the virus in Spain. The real death toll is likely to be much higher as no tests were done in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

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