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COVID-19

Police issue 35,000 fines as Spain embraces ‘freedom’ after 48 days of lockdown

More than 35,000 people were fined over the weekend as people went outside to take walks and exercise for the first time after 48 days of lockdown.

Police issue 35,000 fines as Spain embraces 'freedom' after 48 days of lockdown
Photo: AFP

Strict rules were in place for the lifting of restrictions to allow people to leave their homes just to stretch their legs, go for a run or take a bike ride.

Before Saturday, adults were only allowed out of the house for specific reasons which included buying supplies from the supermarket or pharmacy and visiting a doctor.


A police van on patrol in Sevilla. Photo: AFP 

But from May 2nd, restrictions were lifted to allow adults, either alone or with someone else from the same household, to leave for up to an hour within a designated time slot depending on their age.

However, despite the majority following the rules, there were those who flouted the regulations.

Spain’s interior ministry said police across Spain had issued a total of 36,762 fines during the weekend and made 235 arrests.

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The total number of penalties issued since lockdown was declared on March 14th has now reached 806,595 with 7,189 arrests made.

Data provided by the Interior Ministry reveals that Saturday and Sunday are the peak time for breaking the rules with at least 30,000 fines issued each weekend since lockdown began.

The penalties reached their peak over the Easter weekend when almost 50,000 fines were issued.

The tweets below show the figures for Saturday and Sunday.

 

On Saturday night in Madrid, where May 2nd is a public holiday and day of festivity, police patrols had to break up 30 'botellones' – the Spanish word that describes a gathering of people on the street drinking, and issued 1,434 penalty notices. 

Municipal police said they had intervened in 30 different “street parties” involving between 5 and 12 people who were not keeping to social distancing measures. They also stopped 51 vehicles that were on the road without valid reason and made two arrests.

One video of people dancing in the street in the capital's Malasaña district went viral and prompted criticism from Madrid's mayor. Jose Luis Martínez Almeida who tweeted: “This hasn't been won yet. It’s taken a lot, it has taken many lives to get here. Let’s be responsible until the end.”

 

 

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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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