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COVID-19

Coronavirus in Spain: How the lockdown is impacting us as a family

As Spain's lockdown lingers on, Barcelona-based journalist Graham Keeley asks what it will mean for his family's summer holidays, his children's education and the jobs that keep the family unit afloat.

Coronavirus in Spain: How the lockdown is impacting us as a family
A woman takes a photo of her child outside the usually overcrowded Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. Photo: AFP

Normally at this time of year, we would celebrate with an Easter egg hunt and invite a gaggle of children but this year numbers will be a little depleted.

Our three boys will snaffle all the chocolate. Not everything about coronavirus is bad!

Tomorrow will mark four weeks in confinement and the reality of life is starting to sink in.

The novelty has gone and we are starting to look ahead to what this will mean for the rest of the year.

Even if, as seems likely, the lockdown ends some time in May, how will it impact on us as a family?

Will this mean the children go back to school? Probably not. Imagine sending millions of children back to mix with each other and all that means; it would surely be a madness.

Then your mind wanders to summer holidays already booked. We have already tried to change flights to, of all places, Venice. We have struggled on the line to a certain low-cost carrier for hours, like many others.

Summer holidays loom ahead and we start to wonder if we will be travelling anywhere this year.

However, lurking at the back of our minds is the question of what will happen to our jobs: the big worry.

Without having any control on all of this, we try to muddle through on a day-to-day basis, with old fashioned games like bobbing for apples, skipping contests and picking Kit Kats off wire suspended over our trampoline; (anything to keep them off the dreaded screens!).

Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish prime minister, struck an optimistic tone when he told the parliament that “the fire starts to come under control”.

He has the unenviable job of deciding if and when we return to 'normal' life.

Yet, I have the impression, life will not be quite the same for a long while.

Epidemiologists have predicted a second wave of the virus as often happens with pandemics.

Preventing this from happening will depend on political leadership at a local level to clampdown when outbreaks are spotted in towns and cities.

Meanwhile, I am sure we will be walking around wearing masks.

Many of us will remain at home working there, looking after children. Offices will be almost empty, restaurants, bars and beaches likewise.

One hopes Spain's politicians can resist the childish temptation to squabble to win points off each other and see the bigger picture. 

This is an excerpt from the latest in our series 'Coronavirus around Europe' in which our journalists describe the situation in the country they are in and look ahead to what might come next.

 

 

Graham Keeley is a Spain-based freelance journalist who covered the country for The Times from 2008 to 2019. Follow him on Twitter @grahamkeeley .

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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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