FILE PHOTO: A Spanish National Police officer wearing a protective mask stands at a traffic checkpoint during a partial lockdown amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Madrid, Spain October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) – A Madrid court on Thursday struck down a government order imposing a partial lockdown on the city and nine satellite towns, ruling in favour of the Madrid region in a standoff with national authorities.

Under the health ministry’s order, Madrid regional authorities on Friday barred residents from leaving the area without a valid reason, and imposed other restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 contagion in one of Europe’s worst virus hotspots.

But regional government chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso had opposed the order, saying it would ravage the region’s economy, also arguing the ministry had no power to impose such curbs on a region.

The Madrid regional court sided with her in its ruling, calling the restrictions “interference by public authorities in citizens’ fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it.”

In an initial reaction from the government – which can appeal the ruling – Health Minister Salvador Illa said he had not yet had time to study it.

“We will take the legal decisions that best protect health. We are sure that the Community of Madrid will agree with this approach. We do not care much about anything but citizens’ health,” he told a parliamentary committee without specifying further.

The restrictions imposed in Madrid had not yet been fully enforced as no fines could be levied on people violating the restrictions until the court had issued its decision.

The Madrid region had 741 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to Oct. 7, according to the World Health Organization, making it Europe’s second densest COVID-19 cluster after Andorra.

Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip and John Stonestreet

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