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Coronavirus: Ancient Madrid market reopens amid debate over COVID-19 rules

Madrid’s ancient and emblematic Rastro flea market reopened Sunday after a contentious eight-month closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has walloped the Spanish capital.

With many major European flea markets still shut down, the Rastro’s return seems to be another example of Madrid’s bid to show that heavy coronavirus restrictions may not be necessary even among the latest surge of the virus and some sort of normality can resume with precautions.

That stance has been both criticized and lauded.

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After lengthy negotiations, city authorities agreed the Rastro could open at 50 percent capacity, with half its 1,000 stalls alternating each Sunday for a maximum crowd of 2,700 people.

Police with backup drones will monitor the market to avoid overcrowding.

Dating back to the 1700s, the Rastro sells the usual flea market mix of antiques, clothes, furniture, bric-a-brac and curios in stalls that snake down through a warren-like district next to Madrid’s majestic Plaza Mayor square.

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Long a traditional meeting and drinking place, the bustling Sunday morning market used to attract thousands of tourists and locals alike. If you arrived after 11 a.m., it was almost impossible to move.

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