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COVID-19

How do Spaniards really feel about lockdown?

Most Spaniards support the lockdown and believe it should be extended, a survey showed Tuesday, despite angry protests in Madrid and elsewhere denouncing the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Figures from a survey by the state-run Centre for Sociological Studies (CIS) showed 95 percent of respondents believed the measures to fight the epidemic were necessary or very necessary.

Spain has suffered one of the most-deadly outbreaks of the epidemic, counting more than 231,000 cases and 27,000 deaths, although the numbers peaked on April 2nd.

Six out of 10 respondents said they believed the strict conditions of the lockdown, which was imposed on March 14 but is being slowly eased, should be extended for longer, while 29 percent said they wanted more freedom of movement.   

But the population appears divided over how the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has handled the crisis, with 46 percent saying they had a lot or quite a lot of confidence in its policies, while 48 percent said they had little or none.   

Carried out between May 4 and 13 among a sample of 3,800 respondents, the survey was published just days after anti-government demonstrations took place in several districts of Madrid and in other cities, some involving hundreds of
people.   

Banging saucepans, waving Spanish flags and calling for “freedom”, the demonstrators demanded Sanchez resign in a series of protests firmly backed by rightwing and far rightwing parties.

READ MORE:  VIDEO: Dozens in upmarket Madrid neighbourhood ignore social distancing to protest lockdown measures

 

“Sanchez's management of the crisis is a disaster,” demonstrator Fernando Lopez told AFPTV during a protest outside the headquarters of Sanchez's Socialist party in Madrid.

“Everything he's doing, the delays in acting and the lack of freedom, what he's putting Spain through is intolerable,” he said.

In the southern city of Seville, there were similar demands.   

“We want Sanchez to go because he's ruining this country,” said a man who only gave his name as Ignacio.

Renewed four times, the state of emergency has let the government impose some of the world's tightest restrictions on Spain's nearly 47 million population, although it has since begun a cautious rollback which is due to finish by late June.

The state of emergency is set to expire on May 23rd at midnight but the government will on Wednesday seek parliamentary approval to extend it one more time.   

If approved, it would mean the state of emergency would last until late June.

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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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