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MADRID (Reuters) - The Madrid region, one of the worst hit in Spain, is to introduce targeted lockdowns and other restrictions on movement on Friday in areas with high COVID-19 cases, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Madrid accounts for around one-third of active coronavirus cases in Spain, with a higher incidence in high-density and low-income neighbourhoods, mainly in the south of the city.

"We are taking measures but it is not enough ... Nothing will work if we are not responsible," Antonio Zapatero, head of COVID-19 response in Madrid, told reporters.

"There has been a relaxation of behaviour that we cannot afford." He said people were organizing parties, drinking in the street and not respecting quarantine rules.

He did not give details of the measures to be announced on Friday, but said the health department was considering locking down areas with the highest incidence of the virus.

Since restrictions on movement were lifted and mass testing began in late June, infections have risen in Spain from a few hundred a day to thousands, outstripping other hard-hit nations such as Britain, Italy or France.

Spain's cumulative number of cases, at 603,167, is the highest in Western Europe, while the number of deaths exceeded 30,000.

Authorities in Madrid hope to start using quick tests from next week, which would help track coronavirus cases faster and reign in the epidemic.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Editing by Inti Landauro and Janet Lawrence)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Romanian Families Protest Mandatory Use of Masks in School

By VADIM GHIRDA, Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Several hundred Romanians, including many families with young children, protested Saturday in the country’s capital against measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, especially social distancing and the mandatory use of masks in schools.

Like other countries in Europe, the number of new virus cases has spiked in recent days in Romania, with a record 1,713 cases earlier this week and 1,333 more on Saturday. In all, Romania has registered 111,550 cases of COVID-19, with 4,402 confirmed deaths.

Some 2.8 million Romanian schoolchildren began their academic year on Monday, with classes being held in classrooms, online or a combination of the two, depending on the intensity of the pandemic in a given region. Desks have to be at least one meter apart, masks must be worn by students and teachers at the primary school level or higher and classrooms are disinfected daily.

Protesters at Bucharest’s University Square chanted against President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and drew parallels between the protective measures against the pandemic and the communist and Nazi regimes. One of the speakers at the rally compared the measures to the torture of dissidents during communism.

A large sign carried by a protester included a recent quote from Iohannis about the safety measures — “Kids easily get used to unpleasant things” — above a photograph of children behind barbed-wire fences at a concentration camp

Protesters also highlighted the symbolism of holding the rally at University Square, where protests in 1989 against dictator Nicolae Ceausescu led to the fall of his communist regime.

Only police and members of the media wore masks at the event, where participants, many carrying Romanian flags, did not respect social distancing rules, either.

Local elections initially slated to be held in June but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic will be held Sept. 27 to vote for mayors and city councilors across the country. Romania is also scheduled to hold a parliamentary election near the end of the year.


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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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