In early October, the Spanish government turned back time. On October 9th, it declared a state of emergency for Madrid in order to protect the Lockdown of the capital enforce. Previously there were lockdowns in individual districts.
Just one month later, the crisis-ridden capital shows a completely different picture: The Retiro and other parks in Madrid are full of recreational athletes and walkers these days. If you prefer to enjoy the mild autumn sun while sitting with a beer or the popular tiger nut milk drink Horchata, you often have to look for a free terrace table for a long time.
While in many other cities in Spain and Europe, in addition to restaurants, cultural and leisure facilities are sometimes completely closed, you can sit in bars and restaurants in the Spanish capital until midnight. The surprising thing is that despite the relatively exuberant hustle and bustle, the number of infections and other important indicators in the former corona epicenter have been falling rapidly for weeks.
Nowhere is the situation improving as quickly as in Madrid
At the end of September, when the corona situation was still relatively relaxed elsewhere, the Madrid region, with 813 infections per 100,000 inhabitants within 14 days, still had by far the worst values in Western Europe. This so-called 14-day incidence was last only 328. The number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days fell from Wednesday to Thursday from 161 to 152.
What is special: In Spain, of the total of 17 so-called autonomous communities, only the island regions (the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands), as well as Galicia and Valencia, have better values. Such a rapid improvement in the situation as in Madrid is nowhere registered. And even several German federal states, according to the Robert Koch Institute, recently had significantly worse 7-day values, including Berlin (190.8), Bavaria (180.7) and Bremen (173.8). For the whole of Germany this incidence was 140.4.
The newspaper “El Mundo” and other Spanish media are now speaking of the Madrid “Milagro”, the “Miracle of Madrid”, because of the long-lasting trend. Experts are puzzling and do not dare to provide concrete explanations.
Is the success due to the antigen tests?
What is Madrid doing right? “That is the million dollar question,” says epidemiologist José Jonay Ojeda to “El Mundo”. It is too early to draw any conclusions. Ojeda agrees with many colleagues, however, that there could be one main reason for success: antigen testing.
Madrid bought five million of these tests at the end of September. Test offensives were launched in problem areas. «That was the right decision. This makes it easier, cheaper and faster to diagnose contagious cases. So infected people can be isolated earlier, ”explains Miguel Ángel Royo, spokesman for the Spanish Association of Epidemiologists. The antigen tests are less sensitive than the PCR tests. “But very few positive cases are not discovered,” says Ojeda.
Other Spanish regions, which, despite stricter restrictions on the virus, simply cannot master it, look to Madrid with a mixture of envy and skepticism. There are doubts especially in Catalonia with the tourist metropolis Barcelona, which has always had a great rivalry with Madrid in all areas (from football to business). «We are questioning the optimism in Madrid. It is clear that there is an information blackout there, ”said regional health minister Marc Ramentol.
“Low numbers are a reality”
Because of the persistently poor numbers, all restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters in Catalonia will be closed until November 23rd. The instruction, in effect since October 16, was extended by ten days on Friday. The cordoning off of the region, the cordoning off of all communities on weekends and the nightly curfew are also maintained. Similar strict restrictions also apply in other regions of Spain.
But is Ramentol’s allegation correct? Are the numbers being embellished by the conservative regional government of Madrid? Some experts do not rule out that there may be problems and delays in the recording of cases here and there – not only in Madrid. But they emphasize that the situation in hospitals, for example, cannot be glossed over. And there, too, it always looks better.
“The lower number of admissions for Covid-19 patients is a reality,” says Saúl Ares, head of biotechnology in the Supreme Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Indeed: at the beginning of October the number of admissions in Madrid was well over 2500 per day, on Thursday only 238 (out of 316 layoffs) were reported.
The regional president is suddenly a heroine
What makes Madrid different from other regions? The main difference: You do not cordon off the entire region or entire cities and municipalities and seal off only smaller districts that have high numbers. You may only enter or leave these areas with good reason. The curfew will be brought forward to 10 p.m., parks and playgrounds will be closed. That is apparently enough: On Friday, 10 of the 32 affected areas were “unlocked” again because the number of infections there was halved in 14 days.
The media and experts are also convinced that the Madrilenians have become more cautious due to the great shock. “Yes that’s true. In our family, too, more attempts are made to almost always wear a mask and keep a distance. But there must also be joy, ”say pensioner Carlos (75) and his wife Lurdes (77) over a glass of red wine on the terrace of the traditional café“ Gijón ”in unison.
The “miracle” delights all Madrileños, but one woman in particular: Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The regional president had been sharply criticized for months by the central government, the media and colleagues from other regions because of her corona policy. She was accused of helplessness and inaction. For many media outlets it was already “politically dead”. Now the journalist is suddenly seen as the new star and the bearer of hope for the conservative People’s Party (PP).
You have “eggs, better ovaries”, wrote columnist Emilia Landeluca in “El Mundo”. And TV star presenter Pablo Motos shouted in front of an audience of millions on Thursday evening: “It’s good that we have them in Madrid!” (SDA / kin)