People in the queue to be tested for Covid-19 at the Buenos Aires health centre in south Madrid on Friday morning were met with a bleak but polite homemade sign.
It still bore the previous day’s information, spelled out in marker pen: consultations – by phone and in person – 483; Covid consultations, 19; PCR tests, 78; and number of staff absent, 13.
Clipped beneath was another note: “We’re doing all we can to look after you. Sorry for the disruption.”
The board’s plaintive message is echoing across many of the poorest parts of the Madrid region as the second wave of coronavirus batters Spain and once again threatens to overwhelm the health system in and around the capital.
During the past two weeks, Spain has reported more than 122,000 new Covid-19 cases, more than a third of them in the Madrid region. The number of cases per 100,000 people stands at 259.76 across Spain as a whole. In Madrid, the figure rises to 659.41, and in Puente de Vallecas, the district served by the Buenos Aires medical centre, it is 1,241.
In the UK, there are 59.3 cases per 100,000, in France, 166.9, and in Italy, 33.
As the numbers surge in Spain, bringing with them a sickening sense of deja vu, Madrid’s regional government has floundered.