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Madrid announces new restrictions and closed borders over December puente in bid to save Christmas

Regional authorities in Madrid have announced that the region will close its borders over the extra long December bank holiday weekend to prevent people moving around the country and spreading contagion in the hope that infection rates are reduced enough to allow a freer Christmas.

Madrid announces new restrictions and closed borders over December puente in bid to save Christmas
Photo: AFP

The decision follows same measures introduced on the last two bank holiday weekends that of All Saints and Almudena.

The December puente which is known as the Constitution weekend and comprises two public holidays – that of Constitution Day (usually celebrated on December 6 but which has been carried over to Monday December 7 because it falls on a Sunday this year) and the Day  of the Immaculate Conception on December 8– is usually one of the biggest travel periods across Spain.

But this year with so many regions still insisting on closed borders, most of Spain will be confined to their own territories.

Madrid, which is one of the few autonomous communities not to have imposed a blanket region perimetral confinement has announced that its borders will be closed for ten days beginning at midnight on the evening of December 3and ending at midnight on the 13th.

“We ask once again for this effort from the people of Madrid and we ask it because we want to reduce infection rates to secure the best possible conditions for Christmas”, explained Madrid's deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero.

The regional government also said that from Monday another six basic healthcare zones would be put under perimeter confinement for a period of at least two weeks.

These are: Vicálvaro-Artilleros (Vicálvaro district)  La Elipa (Ciudad Lineal district),  Nueva Alicante, in Fuenlabrada, La Moraleja, in Alcobendas and two other healthcare zones within Madrid capital which are Cuzco and Castilla-La Nueva.

These join 24 healthcare zones that are already placed under limitations which prevent people going in and out of the designated areas without justifiable cause such as for work, study, medical or administrative appointments.

The map below shows the cumulative incidence rates of cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days by municiaplity and district within the Madrid region with the darker the colour, the higher the infection rate.

Seven healthcare zones will see the measures lifted on Monday because of a significant improvement in infection rates, announced Elena Andradas, Madrid’s general director of Public Health, on Friday.

These are Barrio del Puerto and Doctor Tamames both in Coslada district and Pintores in the municipality of Parla. Within Madrid capital itself, Núñez Morgado in Chamartín, Puerta del Ángel in Latina, Villaamil in Tetuan, and El Pardo and Virgen de Begoña in Fuencarral all will see restrictions lifted.

For a map of all the current zones with perimetral restrictions on movement, have a look at the tweet below:

 

 

Madrid now records a cumulative incidence of Covid-19 currently averaging 297.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants down from a peak of 789 on October 1st and below the national average in Spain which as of November 19th stood at 436.27 cases per 100,000.

A curfew between midnight and 6am remains in place across the region and social groups are limitied to a maximum of six people. 

 

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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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