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IN PICS: Hundreds stage protest in Madrid against new virus restrictions

Chanting "freedom", hundreds of people rallied Sunday in Madrid to protest against the mandatory use of facemasks and other restrictions imposed by the Spanish government to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

IN PICS: Hundreds stage protest in Madrid against new virus restrictions
Crowds gathered in Madrid's Plaza Colon to protest prevention measures. All photos: AFP

A crowd of clapping and cheering people gathered beneath an enormous yellow and red Spanish flag that stands in the Plaza Colon in the centre of the city in response to calls on social media.

Protesters held up home-made placards featuring slogans that included “The virus does not exist”, “Masks kill” and “We are not afraid”.    

The demonstration drew a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists, libertarians and opponents of vaccination.   

Pilar Martin, a 58-year-old housewife from the northeastern city of Zaragoza, said she had come to Madrid for the rally because she believed governments around the world were exaggerating the number of infections to curb people's freedoms. 

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“They are forcing us to use a mask, they want us to stay home practically locked up. It's obvious that they are continuously tricking us with talk of outbreaks. It's all a lie,” she told AFP at the rally.

A number of participants cited a slickly edited documentary dubbed “Plandemic” which has been removed from several social media platforms including YouTube and Facebook because it was found to have false claims, such as that wearing masks can cause harm or that vaccines have “killed millions”.

Many protesters did not wear a mask even though it is required by law in public across Spain, which has seen a surge in new infections since it lifted its three-month lockdown measures on June 21st.

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Mask-wearing was initially imposed in early May as a requirement for those using public transport, and was later expanded in a country where the virus has killed nearly 29,000 people.

The protest comes two days after the government announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, including the closure of discos and a ban on smoking in public areas when it is not possible to keep at least two metres from other people.

Member comments

  1. Thank you for reporting this but, once again, there is no distinction between the (very unreliable) positive test results and the number of people who are actually ill or even have any symptoms.
    Furthermore, I believe the official estimate of the number of protesters in Madrid was in the region of 2,500, not just hundreds.
    Finally, mask-wearing can harm people’s health and that is not a false claim.

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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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