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VIDEO: Meet Seville’s robotic barman that promises contamination free service

He maybe silent and his moves mechanical but he can pull you a pint without the slightest concern about contamination: meet Beer Cart, the robotic barman serving beer in Seville.

He made his debut when the southern city began enjoying new freedom as Spain eased a two-month lockdown, with bars and cafes in half of the country allowed to reopen their terraces.

Sitting in the middle of the bar at La Gitana Loca (The Crazy Gypsy), the giant robotic arm with a “Captain Hook” pincer smoothly reaches over to a dispenser, takes a plastic cup then spins around to hold it at an angle under the tap.   

Gradually straightening the cup as it fills, the robot then places it on the counter for the customer to pick up.

 

Serving up small draft beers — or canas — for just over a week in the centre of Seville, the bionic barman has drawn a steady stream of both customers and curious onlookers.

Spain has lost more than 27,700 people to the virus and taken a very cautious approach to lifting the lockdown, with bar and cafe terraces operating at a reduced capacity and under strict hygiene conditions.

Alberto Martinez, owner of La Gitana Loca (pictured above) where a small 200ml beer sells for 0.70 euros ($0.75), said he had bought the robot before the epidemic took hold, hoping some mechanical manpower would  increase sales.

But because of the crisis, it was never put into use — although he realised it would be perfect in the new environment where people need to stay apart.

“We thought it would be ideal for reopening in phase one,” he told AFP.    

“As the aim is to avoid contact between customers and items (in the bar)… we realised the robot would be good using (disposable) plastic cups to serve beer, so it's all very self-service.”

Even so, the bar is far from making a profit, with only 12 customers allowed at one time on the outdoor terrace.

“At the moment, it's not profitable to open for the few seats we're allowed. Now that we have to compete with other bars we have to do something different,” he said.   

“So (with the robot on show) people can see that the bar on the corner is open and that we're doing something different.”   


 

But not everyone is quite so enthusiastic.   

“I think the relationship between the customer and the barman who serves you, who looks you in the eye and watches how the beer goes into the glass has an appeal that's missing with this robot,” said 33-year-old lawyer Manuel Fernandez.

“I am not in favour of this kind of machine, I prefer to take risks and have them serve me beer the way they've done it all my life.”

By AFP's  Jorge Guerrero

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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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