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Spain’s Covid-19 death toll rises by 619 as 4 million Spaniards prepare to return to work

Spain's daily death toll from the coronavirus rose to 619 on Sunday, after falling for three straight days, the government said.

Spain's Covid-19 death toll rises by 619 as 4 million Spaniards prepare to return to work
Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP

The country, one of the worst hit by the pandemic, has now recorded 16,972 deaths from COVID-19. The daily toll was up from 510 on Saturday.

Authorities had hoped that the falling death toll was a sign that social distance measures were working, with Saturday's numbers the smallest daily increase since March 23th in Spain.

From Monday April 13th, the Spanish government will loosen the restrictions for industrial and construction workers as well as for employees in other sectors for whom working from home isn't an option.

In terms of service-based companies, these include businesses selling hygiene products, press and stationery, petrol stations, tobacconists, tech equipment suppliers, pet food shops, e-commerce, dry cleaners and hairdressers going to people's homes.

Other retail, entertainment and catering businesses (except for home delivery services) will remain closed for now.

All of the above job sectors were initially allowed to carry on with business as usual for the first two weeks of Spain's lockdown, until Pedro Sánchez's government decided to only authorise “essential workers” to go to their workplaces at the height of the pandemic.

Spain's Prime Minister justified the decision by saying it will help prevent “the economic collapse and standstill of Spain's economy” and that vulnerable workers as well anyone experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home even if they are technically allowed to go back to work. 

Health officials also announced that from Monday masks will be handed out at metro and train stations across cities in Spain as companies accounting for a total of 4 million workers re-open after this two-week “hibernation” period.

Although authorities say the pandemic has peaked, they have urged the population to strictly follow the national lockdown which was put in place on March 14 in order to slow the spread of the virus.

The restrictions will remain in place until April 25th although the government has made clear it expects to announce another two-week extension.

Spain toughened its nationwide lockdown on March 30th, halting all non-essential activities until after Easter as it sought to further curb the spread of the virus.

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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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