Delivery for heroes: How Spain’s closed restaurants are feeding workers on coronavirus frontline

It is midday on Saturday and smoke rises off the grill even though the doors are closed at the Timesburg restaurant in Barcelona.

Delivery for heroes: How Spain's closed restaurants are feeding workers on coronavirus frontline
Pictures by Josep Lago.

The chefs are making hamburgers, not to be served at tables but packed up and delivered to doctors, nurses and other health staff on the front line of Spain's battle against coronavirus.

“Contributing in any way we can at the moment makes us feel better,” Vanessa, one of the cooks, tells AFPTV as she garnishes the burgers, wraps them up and loads them into takeout bags.

Bars and restaurants have been closed in Spain since the middle of March but a dozen of them have joined forces with delivery companies as part of an initiative called “Delivery for Heroes”.

Every day, between 200 and 300 dishes are prepared and donated to Barcelona's hospitals, in the hope of offering some solace to those trying to save lives inside.   

“We know we are not an absolute necessity because they already have food and catering. But we are trying to give them that moment of excitement,” says Axel Peinado, a promoter of the initiative and director of a Barcelona pizzeria.

“They might have been working for 12 or 14 hours straight, in a very intense environment and during this very difficult situation that we're all experiencing. And then suddenly, a pizza or some sushi or maybe their favourite burrito in town arrives in their lap.”   

As Daniel Valls parks his van outside Barcelona's Hospital Clinic, two nurses wearing white coats and protective masks emerge to collect his delivery.

A delivery person working for Delivery4Heroes arrives at a restaurant to pick up bags with food for the healthcare workers. 

“When you deliver the food and you see they're happy, that makes us happy and it makes us stronger,” says Valls, who takes precautions too by wearing  a mask and gloves.

Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused more than 12,400 deaths in Spain, the second worst-hit country after Italy, solidarity initiatives like this one have burgeoned, especially with health workers at the receiving end.

By AFP's Daniel Bosque and Thomas Allnutt


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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.