Madrid street protests buck Spanish coronavirus lockdown

Several major cities still under tight restrictions

After two months of tightly controlled lockdown, Spain’s government is facing growing resistance to its handling of the coronavirus crisis from the political right, which has started organising street demonstrations against restrictions.

Spain’s lockdown, which was introduced in mid-March, has been among the tightest in the world. But since Monday, the health ministry has allowed about half of the country to move into the first of a three-phase lifting of restrictions.

That means, for example, that up to 10 people can gather together, with social distancing; bars and restaurants can serve customers at outdoor tables; and smaller shops and businesses can receive some customers.

But some major cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, have not yet moved into phase one of the so-called de-escalation, after they were deemed to be still at risk of seeing a spike in infections.


Just over 27,000 deaths have been attributed to coronavirus in Spain, with 217 deaths reported on Thursday.

In Madrid, several demonstrations against the central government’s handling of the crisis have been held in the wealthy Salamanca district throughout this week.

Many of those taking part chanted for Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez to resign and several people were sanctioned by police for failing to maintain social distancing. On Thursday, Resistencia Democrática, a group which has been organising the protests, called on participants in future actions to respect social distancing and the police.


The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party (PP), has encouraged the protests. On Thursday she said that “families are locked up in their homes and they can’t go out and protest freely, even though it’s just a little while in their own street”. She accused the central government of “imposing all kinds of barbarities”.

She also warned that future protests will make the ones held this week “look like a joke”.

However, Ms Díaz Ayuso has been under pressure after it emerged that she has spent the lockdown living in an apartment in a luxury hotel at a discount price. Earlier this week, her government published on its website a contract it apparently had with the hotel, Be Mate Plaza de España, worth more than half a million euro, fuelling claims that her stay at the establishment was part of an ethically questionable deal.

The document was subsequently deleted, with the administration saying it had been a “human error”.

The far-right Vox party is also planning a demonstration against the Sánchez government, with participants encouraged to take part in their cars on May 23rd.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain