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TENERIFE

Canary Islands: Lockdown ends in Tenerife hotel over coronavirus

The remaining guests at a hotel in Spain's Canary Islands on lockdown over the coronavirus were cleared Tuesday to leave the building after completing their 14-day quarantine period.

Canary Islands: Lockdown ends in Tenerife hotel over coronavirus
Photo: AFP

Hotel workers and medical staff cheered and applauded in the early hours of Tuesday as a policeman cut a plastic ribbon that was blocking access to Tenerife's H10 Costa Adeje Palace, images broadcast on Spanish television showed.

Some smiling guests removed their face masks and threw them up in the air as they left the four-star hotel while others posed for pictures in front of the entrances.

“As the 14-day quarantine period ended, they were allowed to leave. There is no longer anyone in quarantine at the hotel,” a spokesman for the archipelago's health department said.

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There were 865 people from some 25 countries staying at the hotel when it was put on lockdown on February 25 after an Italian guest tested positive for the virus, he added.

But over the coming days many who did not show any symptoms were cleared to leave and as of Tuesday there were only about 200 people left in quarantine at the hotel, he said.

“They have been leaving throughout the day. We are operating normally again,” a hotel spokesman said.

Seven people who were staying at the hotel tested positive for the novel coronavirus — six Italians and a British national, according to the health department. Four remain in hospital.

Guests were allowed to mingle around the resort's pools and wander the common areas while the hotel was on lockdown but were not allowed to leave the establishment.

“It has been an experience; it is quite surreal,” one British guest, Christopher Betts, told reporters as he left the hotel Tuesday.

Spain has reported over 1,200 cases of coronavirus with 28 deaths, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

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COVID-19

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.

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