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DOGS

How dogs have become hot property during Spain’s coronavirus lockdown

Once a twice-daily chore that drew a chorus of complaints, walking the dog has become an enviable get-out-of-jail card in lockdown Spain with some wily punters even offering their hounds out for hire.

How dogs have become hot property during Spain's coronavirus lockdown

Unlike in Italy, where people can go out to stretch their legs despite a national lockdown, Spain has banned all such sorties under its state of emergency.

But they can go out if they have a four-legged friend — for a brief walk and only to carry out the bare necessities.

“You go out more often but for less time,” says Luis Fe, a 49-year-old teacher walking Dara, his border collie, near a church in Madrid.   

Other dog owners are the same, he says: going out “just because they can, or because they are bored at home.”

With numbers of cases spiralling, Spain on Saturday introduced a nationwide lockdown to try and curb the spread of the virus that has now infected more than 17,000 people, making it the fourth worst-hit nation in the world.

And barking is one of the few sounds that break the silence of Madrid's eerily-deserted streets.

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Rent-a-dog

With no scientific evidence that animals pass on the virus to humans, having a dog is now seen as an enviable freedom pass for housebound Spaniards.    

“One dog owner told me someone had sent him a message asking if they could rent his dog,” Fe says.

And the idea seems to be catching on.    

“If anyone wants to get out for a walk, I will rent them my dog,” read one advert on Milanuncios, Spain's online classifieds site.

Not everyone thinks it's funny.   

“That's a nightmare — for other people's health and for the dog itself who's going out with a person they don't know,” tuts Alicia Barrientos, 39, who is out walking her Australian sheepdog.

And rival classifieds site Wallapop also pooh-pooed the idea, urging users to report any such dodgy dog offers.

But the subject had sparked a flood of humour on social media, from posts of pups punting themselves out at 15 euros a walk, to others collapsing in exhaustion: “But you've already taken me out 38 times today”.   

At least one man in northern Spain thought he could get away with faking it — until police caught him dragging a stuffed toy along by a leash in a hilarious moment caught on camera by sniggering neighbours on a nearby balcony.

And it has caught on online with Facebook and Twitter flooded with similar clips, with one even showing a man getting ready to “walk” his daughter who is disguised as a dalmatian.

It's not only in Spain, with a mayor in Sardinia forced to issue a public clarification that the dogs being walked “have to be alive” while in Rome, some people have even been spotted walking pigs.   

By AFP's Thomas Perroteau

Rules for taking the dog out during lockdown in Spain

Only one person allowed per dog, which means no sneaking out the entire family for some fresh air under the excuse of exercising the mutt.

No mask needed

Neither for the owner or the dog itself. There is no evidence that the coronavirus can be passed between animals and humans.

Wash down urine and excrement

It’s not enough to just scoop the poop, during the coronavirus lockdown owners are also expected to rinse down areas where the dog has pooed or urinated so carrying a bottle of watered down detergent is a must.

Dog owners are also advised to wipe down the paws of their pet at the door when they return home to avoid the dogs carrying in any traces of the virus that they may  have picked up from surfaces outside.

How long can I walk the dog for?

The guidelines state brief walks just to allow the pets to do the necessities, so no three-hour walks in the countryside apparently.

Can I meet friends who are also walking their dog?

Again, this is a strict no-no. The lockdown has been imposed to prevent people being in contact with each other and spreading the virus, so don't approach anyone outside the home. Always stay at least one metre apart.

Can I let them off the lead?

No, dogs must be kept under control at all times under the strict regulations that allow dog walks during the lockdown.

What if I test positive for coronavirus or have symptoms?

 

If that is the case then you are not allowed to leave your home under any circumstances (unless of course you are going to the hospital for emergency medical care). If you have a dog then you must arrange for someone healthy to walk it. Out a message on facebook or in your neighbour whatsapp group and we guarantee you won’t be short of offers.

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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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