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COVID-19

The heartwarming story of a man who believes Spain’s nightly applause is just for him

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, those in lockdown across Spain have looked forward to 8pm each day when people go out onto their balconies or open their windows to show their appreciation for the nation's medical staff who are risking their lives to fight the virus.

The heartwarming story of a man who believes Spain's nightly applause is just for him
Photo: AFP

For many people it is the highlight of their day, a moment of connection with neighbours and an act of solidarity that reminds everyone that we are all in this together.

Videos of the nightly event are widely shared on social media finding a global audience and providing one of the few positive stories of the crisis. 

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One elderly gentleman in Vigo, however, believes the applause and whistles are solely for him.

Hermann Schreiber, a German-born octogenarian who has spent the majority of his life with his Spanish wife, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and has sadly forgotten his Spanish; what he has not forgotten, however, is how to play his harmonica.

Each evening when the applause begins,  Schreiber throws open his window, raises the instrument to his mouth and delivers what he believes to be a performance for his gathered audience; neighbours who have gathered at their windows.

He believes that the cheers and applause are solely for him and his harmonica.

His carer, Tamara Sayar, is partly responsible for the impromptu concerts. She encouraged Schreiber to believe the nationwide ovation is for him, but worries that she may “have created a monster because now Hermann rehearses all day”.

Sayar has recorded several videos of Schreiber’s performances and posted them on social media. In one, she can be heard asking Schreiber if he is nervous. “It’s a lot of people. I understand”, she says. But Schreiber continues playing through grins and giggles before joining in with the applause.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Agencia EFE (@efe_noticias) on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:14am PDT

 

Schreiber and his wife, Teresa – a Galician – met in Unterkirnach, Germany, a southern region of the Black Forest where they subsequently made their home, visiting her native Galcian hometown, Vigo, during holidays.

They were on such a trip back to visit her family when Spain went into lockdown. 

“The disease has confined them”, explained Sayar. Luckily, Herman was able to procure his medication through other means.

The health worker explained that her work with the elderly means she is separated from her husband and child by almost 60km. They are isolating in Sanxenxobut she understands the high-risk nature of her profession.

They video call everyday, unsure how long the forced separation will last. But luckily, Tamara has Schreiber and his harmonica to keep her company.

By Conor Faulkner for The Local Spain.

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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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