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COVID-19

MAP: Which phase is my province in and what activities are allowed?

Spain's government have announced which provinces will advance to the next phase on Monday.

MAP: Which phase is my province in and what activities are allowed?
The areas in a lighter colour have advanced to Phase 1 while those in the darker shade remain in Phase 0.

Madrid and Barcelona will remain in Phase Zero of the national plan that sees the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions across Spain while some of the islands will advance to Phase 2.

The whole of the Valencia region and the whole of the Andalusia region will advance to Phase 1 of the plan on Monday May 18 while parts of Castilla y Leon will remain in Phase 0.

The status of each and every province across Spain from Monday is marked in an interactive map produced by Spain’s government.

The islands of La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa in the Canary Islands and the island of Formentera in the Balearic Islands will all advance to Phase 2 of the plan. Two weeks ago, these provinces were the first to adopt Phase 1.

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Under Phase 2 larger gatherings – from ten to 15 people – are allowed to take place and large commercial premises are allowed to open to shoppers, although social distancing and hygiene measures must still be maintained.

Madrid’s petition to move forward into Phase 1 was rejected by health authorities who insist that the outbreak has still not met the requirements to allow it loosen restrictions further.

“The evolution of the pandemic is very favourable, but the Madrid region started out with many more cases than other regions,” insisted Fernando Simón, head of the Coordination Center for Health Emergencies announcing the new developments in a televised news conference on Friday evening.

“But even then, it is still the region with the most daily registered cases, together with Catalonia. The Madrid region must remain for another week in Phase 0, out of prudence,” he said

However, in a compromise move both Madrid and Barcelona will see some restrictions loosened in what has been dubbed Phase 0.5 that will see small businesses able to open without the need for prior appointments.

But the terraces of restaurants and bars will remain closed in the two cities and meetings between friends and family must wait at least another week.

It means that 70 percent of Spain has now advanced beyond the preparatory stage while 14 million remain in Phase Zero.

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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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