Coronavirus: Tents erected outside Madrid hospital as strict restrictions imposed

Spanish military tents are set out to be used by hospital patients during the coronavirus outbreak at the Gomez Ulla military hospital in Madrid, Spain.
A line of green empty tents labelled with red crosses stood empty outside a Madrid hospital. Credit: AP

Many residents in Madrid will need a reason to leave their local neighbourhood as stricter measures come into force to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Further measures will also be introduced in the Spanish capital, including limitations on group gatherings.

And in a sign that hospital admission are rising, a line of green empty tents labelled with red crosses stood empty outside a Madrid hospital.

The new restrictions will impact 860,000 people, or 13% of the region's 6.6 million residents, in an area where one of every four new virus infections are being detected.

The areas are also the poorest, more densely populated, and have a prevalent virus incidence above 1,000 cases per 100,000 for the past 14 days.

The same rate for the whole of Europe, including the UK, stood at 76, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, or ECDC.

Madrid's deputy health chief said she wanted to avoid issuing mandatory stay-at-home orders.

Tents have been erected outside a Madrid hospital as Covid-19 cases rise in the country again. Credit: AP

Under the new rules, parks will be closed, shops and restaurants need to operate at 50% capacity and residents will need to justify that they are on their way to work, study or to see a doctor in order to leave the targeted area.

Nearly one million quick antigen tests will also be performed, authorities said.

The Spanish capital’s rate of transmission is more than double the national average, which already leads European contagion charts.

On Friday, it reported more than 5,100 new infections for the city and its surrounding area, 200 more than the day before.

The region’s hospitals were treating 2,907 people (17% of the total hospital capacity) including nearly 400 in intensive care units, or 41% of those beds.

Parts of Madrid will be placed on tighter lockdown. Credit: AP

As yet another sign of how, slowly but steadily, beds are being taken up by Covid-19 patients, a line of green empty tents labelled with red crosses stood empty on Friday at the gates of Madrid’s Gómez Ulla military hospital.

Spain’s Defense Ministry said that the tents were installed “protectively” to triage patients and avoid overcrowded emergency wards.

More than 640,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Spain - more than in any other European country.

At least 30,400 have died since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Health Ministry’s official data.

In the capital, despite curbs on nightlife, outdoor smoking and limiting all group interaction to a maximum of 10 people — and to six starting from Monday — Covid-19 cases have continued stubbornly on the rise.

Some experts warned that more action was needed.

“They are overthinking it. Action is needed,” said Daniel López Acuña, who was director of emergencies at the World Health Organization, adding that the measures were “tardy and insufficient.”