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COVID-19

Q&A: When will the swimming pools open in Spain?

As the temperature rises it seems inevitable that people are wondering in what phase of Spain’s de-escalation plan the swimming pools will open again.

Q&A: When will the swimming pools open in Spain?
A lifeguard wearing a face mask walks at the Ocean Sevilla pool club in Sevilla this week. Photo: AFP

As usual, the answer isn’t straightforward.

Firstly it depends whether we are talking about a municipal run public pool or one within an urbanization for use of a group of residents.

Here’s what we know so far.

Spain’s Official State Gazette (BOE) detailing the ‘Plan for transition to the new normal’ states in a notice published on May 16 that the opening of public swimming pools can occur during Phase 2 – the same time when swimming is allowed on public beaches.

However, there are conditions.

The pools have to reduce the normal capacity to 30 percent and users must observe social distancing from others not only in the water but also around the pool itself keeping not just themselves but also their towels and belongings at least 2 metres apart from others who do not reside in the same household.

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Plus reservations for the pool must be made in advance. And changing rooms will remain closed.

The BOE also states that strict disinfecting measures must be followed to make sure all public areas are regularly cleaned.

This means that staff have to be available to ensure such conditions are met and in residential community pools that may be unlikely.

Ultimately it has been left to the decision of local councils to decide on whether municipal pools can open and on Residents’ committees to decide whether communal pools can be opened and staffed safely.

For example, Madrid City Hall has said it won’t consider opening the municipal run swimming pools until at least July while the regional president in Castilla-La Mancha has urged mayors to find ways to open swimming pools as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, a statement from Cgcafe, an advisory body for residential administrators, warned that the strict safety regulations were unlikely to be able to be met by most residential communities meaning for the most part, shared pools in urbanizations would likely remain closed.

 

However, there are no restrictions on private pools.

Hotels can open swimming pools from Phase 2 as long as they can meet all the hygiene requirements plus reducing to 30 percent capacity and advanced reservations.

If you are lucky enough to live near the beach then swimming in the sea is your best option – although social distancing conditions must be kept on the beach itself as well as in the water and regulations for entering the beach areas are dependant on rules imposed by local councils. 

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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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