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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: What Spain is doing to help tenants and the self-employed during coronavirus crisis

The Spanish government has introduced a host of new measures to help those suffering economic hardships as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

EXPLAINED: What Spain is doing to help tenants and the self-employed during coronavirus crisis
Photo: AFP

With the economy in “hibernation” as the whole of Spain is placed in lockdown and many left unable to make ends meet at the end of the month, the cabinet approved emergency measures that include suspending rental payments and banning evictions during the state of emergency.

The cabinet approved a measure that will effectively ban the eviction of anyone who doesn’t have a home to go to, while the state of emergency is in place and for the next six months after it is declared over.

It will also see an automatic extension of those rental contracts due to expire while state of emergency measures are in place.

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 “Housing is the trench from where people will resist the virus,” said Social Affairs Minister Pablo Iglesias, whose hard-left Podemos governs in coalition with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists.

“For tenants, evictions will be suspended starting today and up to six months after the end of the state of emergency. Nobody can be evicted from their home.”

The government has also introduced a “micro-loan” scheme that will enable those who suffer financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus crisis to borrow money to pay their rent, at 0 percent interest to be repaid over six years – a period that can be extended to ten.

These measures will be in place for those who rent from private landlords with two properties at most.

“A small proprietor, such as retired couple [whose rental income] complements their pension is not the same as a vulture fund, or a large property owner,” explained Pablo Iglesias, announcing the measures following the cabinet meeting.

Larger landlords would be required to slash their rents by 50 percent or restructure them “in order to do their bit,” he said.

There was good news too for the self-employed – known as ‘autonomos’ in Spain – who can apply to suspend their mortgage repayments if their income is hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.  

This falls along the same lines as the mortgage moratoriums already introduced for those salaried workers who had lost their jobs or suffered a cut in income.

They were also told that social security payments could be suspended for a period of up to six months without interest being accrued.

And that any outstanding payments to social security could also be delayed six months.  

The measures also include the guarantee that basic utilities – water, electricity and gas – would be provided to all and no households would be cut off while state of emergency measures were in place.

Those who have had temporary contracts terminated would also be entitled to emergency funds of €440 as well as aid to home cleaners who lose their jobs and have reduced work hours due to the pandemic.

Spain’s freelancers, known as ‘autonomos’ where given positive news with the announcement that social security payments could be suspended for a period of up to six months without interest being accrued.

The government had already issued a moratorium on mortgage payments to ensure people who cannot pay are not thrown out of their homes.   

More info: 

Full details of measures approved by the cabinet on Tuesday visit the Moncloa page HERE

Spain's Social Security department section covering COVID-19 HERE
 

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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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