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COVID-19

VIDEO: Packed flight from Madrid to Canary Islands sparks outcry

Images showing a crowded Iberia Express flight between Madrid and Gran Canaria on Sunday have sparked calls for airlines to review their procedures to conform to social distancing.

VIDEO: Packed flight from Madrid to Canary Islands sparks outcry
File photo: AFP

The images taken by passengers aboard flight B3838 from Madrid to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Sunday were posted on social media and soon went viral causing public outcry.

Passengers were shown wearing masks on the flight which was almost full with only a few middle seats vacant.

“Where is the safe distancing Iberia? Asked Efrén Hernández in a tweet alongside a video of passengers complaining. “The plane is almost completely full and there is not even an empty seat separating passengers. This is a disgrace.”

In one video it is possible to hear an announcement before take off stating that safety measures are being met, and offering those who did not feel comfortable to get off the plane.

Iberia Express responded to one tweet after being contacted by a deluge of disgruntled passengers “Hello, we are sorry to read your message,” read the response. “However we want to assure you that we comply with all the rules of security in place by the authorities. “

“We have augmented the daily cleaning and disinfection of the cabin and all its parts and our fleet has an air system and HEPA filters that are 99.9% effective against viruses and bacteria. We are at your disposal for any questions,” the responder on the official airline account added.

But Canary Island politicians called for an immediate review with the regional Minister for Transport, Sebastián Franquis expressing “enormous concern over these breaches” of safety regulations.

The Canary Islands archipelago advances to Phase 1 of the “plan for a transition to the new normal” while the Madrid region remains in Phase 0 for at least another week.

However, flights between the islands and the mainlain are still operating but the frequency has been greatly reduced.

Since Spain was put on lockdown on March 14th only those who have a valid reason – such as work or returning to primary residence – are permitted to travel between regions.

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Member comments

  1. Actually safe distancing is a suitable principle in appropriate situations and not in others.

    In the street and other open spaces the safe distancing principle should be applied because it easily can.

    On public transport and other enclosed spaces it is not practical to do it. You cannot provide an economic service like that.

    It is enough to provide one seat empty between two occupied seats.

    The important thing is to use masks or visors to prevent transfer of infected fluids from one person to another to their nose and mouth areas. Also stops infected aerosols.

    Frequent handwashing requirement is not possible on an aircraft. Therefore passengers should use disposal gloves.

    Temperature checks and hand sensitisation should be mandatory at boarding gate.

    That’s enough to cut the risk of infection down by 95 per cent.

    In our panic over Covid19 we have lost all common sense and a sense of proportion.

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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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