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COVID-19

WATCH: Spanish 101-year-old leaves hospital after beating coronavirus

Every day of the coronavirus we have been covering the bad news; the rise in deaths, the crisis-hit hospitals, the desperate tales of health workers struggling to do their jobs, so it is a rare pleasure to be able to bring you a happy news story, one of beating the coronavirus against all odds.

WATCH: Spanish 101-year-old leaves hospital after beating coronavirus
Photo: AFP

Well two in fact, for on Tuesday came the welcome news that two of Spain’s oldest patients who had been confirmed with the coronavirus had overcome it and were sent home.

The statistics of recovering from the coronavirus aren’t great reading when it comes to the elderly, so it was with great joy that health workers gave the all clear on Tuesday to Encarna Buisán, a woman aged 101.

The resident of Biescas,a town nestled in the Pyrenees near Spain’s border with France is thought to have contracted COVID-19 after attending a funeral in early March and by mid-March she was admitted into hospital and her family told to prepare for the worst.

But two weeks later, the woman who had become the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the region of Aragon, had recovered fully from the ordeal.

A video was released showing the emotional moment of her discharge when she was applauded by all the health workers as she was wheeled from the hospital ward.

“I want this to give hope to everyone, to see that Mum, who was admitted when she 100 years old and had her 101 birthday here, has come out the other side. It is possible to get over this because she has done it,” said her daughter Mari Carmen, who went on to thank the incredible work of hospital staff at the San Jorge hospital.

At the other end of the country, medical staff celebrated another success story with the discharge of 98-year-old Antonio Magdaleno Martínez.

Given his advanced age, there was little hope that he too survive after being to Sevilla's Virgen del Rocío hospital and testing positive for Covid-19.

But after a fortnight on a ventilator he was given the all clear to return to the Fundomar nursing home where he was greeted by rapturous applause from staff. 

 
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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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