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COVID-19

Spain loosens restrictions in towns with fewer than 10,000 residents

Spain has loosened restrictions in all municipalities across Spain whose population number fewer than 10,000 residents regardless of whether it is in Phase 0 or Phase 1.

The new order, published on Friday in the Official State Gazette, will see bars and restaurants open regardless what phase the province is in, and eliminates the need to keep to a strict timetable on hours allowed outside the home depending on age, and loosens restrictions on walks.

Until now everyone in Spain apart from those in town with fewer that 5,000 inhabitants, have to take their exercise within a scheduled time slot with the adults allowed out between 6am and 10am and 8 pm and 11pm while children under 14 could go outside for up to one hour between noon and 7pm.

Those over 70 years old were left with the times between 10am and 12am and 7pm and 8pm to take their walk.

The rules applied to all municipalities in Phase 0 and Phase 1 except those with a population of less than 5,000 but that has now been extended to include towns with fewer than 10,000 residents and a population density of less than 100 inhabitants per square kilometre.

The new order eliminates the need for time slots entirely, and also removes the stipulation that only one adult can take up to three children out to play.

From now on in those towns with fewer than 10,000 people anyone from the same household is allowed to take a walk together.

Children will be allowed for a walk not just within the municipality but up to 5km from their home presuming those areas are also within a municipality of fewer than 10,000 people as long as they are within the same province.

Open air markets are allowed to take place whether in Phase 0 or Phase 1  as long as guidelines set by local councils regarding occupancy and distancing can be met.

The BOE also states that these small municipalities can reopen hotel and restaurant interior dining rooms as long as capacity doesn't exceed 40 percent but bars can not open interior areas although they can offer tables outside as ling as just 50 percent of the usual terrace capacity is met. 

Funerals and wakes can also be held with a maximum of 15 people inside and 25 outside regardless of whether the attendees are from different households.

Places of worship can now hold services as long as they do not exceed 50 percent of capacity and social distancing is observed.

Meanwhile in those provinces that have advanced to Phase 1 already, meetings between friends and relatives within small  municipalities can rise from 10 to a maximum of 15.

Outdoor sports facilities can be used with an advance apointment up to 30 percent of usual capacity and with social distancing imposed.

The new rules only apply to those municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people and with a population density not great than 100 inhabitants per square kilometre.  

But the order stated that those municipalities with a “dense urban area” or that border a dense urban area of a municipality with a population exceeding 10,000 people are exempt from these new rules.

In Spain there are 7,372 towns with a population below 10,000 representing some 90 percent of the total of the 8,131 municipalities across the country as a whole.

Although only 20 percent – around 9.5 million people – of Spain's entire 46.9 million population of Spain  live in these towns.

 

Datadista have published an interactive map so you see exactly which towns come under the 10,000 population rules.

 

 

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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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