Spanish PM to unveil ‘shock’ coronavirus emergency plan as death toll jumps to 30

Pedro Sanchéz, the Spanish prime minister, said on Monday that he would unveil a "shock therapy" plan to combat the spread of coronavirus as the number of deaths rose to 30 and over 1,000 people were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Spanish PM to unveil 'shock' coronavirus emergency plan as death toll jumps to 30
A local police car patrols the streets in the northern Spanish town of Haro on March 8, 2020. Around 30 people are kept at their homes under active observation in Haro. AFP
Without providing more details, Mr Sanchéz said he had been working on the plan with unions and business leaders for the past two weeks and it was ready to roll out. 
“We will announce a shock therapy plan in a few days as soon as we determine the exact diagnosis and fine tune the measures,” he said. “We want the plan to be effective and proportional to the scale of the problem.” 
Twitter link to Sanchez 
Nadia Calvino, the economy minister, said the government was taking action to avoid the outbreak doing more damage to the worst hit industries like tourism. 
She said the plan would be temporary and limited. 
Opposition parties had earlier criticised the left-wing coalition government for not acting faster to contain the damage caused to the economy by the outbreak in Spain. 

Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative Popular Party, told reporters: “When the government does not do anything, sometimes it is the opposition who needs to propose a shock plan.” 

The total number of people diagnosed with coronavirus (Covid-19) in Spain rose to 1,204 on Monday, health authorities said.

All 30 who have died from the virus were over 69 years old, with many living in nursing homes.

The first person to die from the virus was a 69-year-old man from Valencia who had recently travelled to Nepal. It was first thought that he died from pneunomia but tests later proved the cause was the virus.

The Spanish stock exchange fell 7 per cent today after trading started, the worst collapse since the Iraq War in 2003.

On Monday Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city of 250,000 people in the Basque region, became the first Spanish city to order the closure of all schools for 15 days.

It comes after an outbreak of the coronavirus at a recent funeral in the city. On Saturday police were deployed on the streets of Haro, a town in the La Rioja region after dozens of cases of coronavirus were traced back to a funeral held in a nearby Basque Country two weeks ago.

Police advised people confined to their houses because of coronavirus they will face fines of €600,000 if they break the lock down order. 

Some 60 cases originated among people who attended the service in the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, health authorities said.

Coronavirus in Spain: What's the latest news and how worried should you be? (PAYWALL FREE)

Thirty-nine of those 60 cases were in the La Rioja region, with most of them in the town of Haro and Casalarreina.

Pedro Sanchéz, the Spanish prime minister, is to join a meeting of the health ministry today to assess the next steps to take to try to contain the virus.

Two schools in the Basque Country in northwestern Spain have closed after cases were diagnosed at each school. 

FC Barcelona has announced it will hold the Champions League match against Naples on 18 March behind closed doors.

A pupil at the school which Princess Leonor and her sister Princess Sofia attend has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Princess Leonor is first in line for the Spanish throne after her father, King Felipe VI.

The Enseñanza Santa María de los Rosales in Madrid is remaining open.

A spokesman for the royal household said: “Like most parents, King Felipe and Queen Sofia are trying to maintain normality for their children. The girls are going to school today.”  

by Graham Keeley








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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.