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COVID-19

WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 ‘resurgence’ and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas

The World Health Organization in Europe Wednesday urged families to wear face masks during this year's Christmas family gatherings, as it warned of a "further resurgence" of Covid-19 in early 2021.

WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 'resurgence' and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas
Pedestrians wearing protective face masks check out the window in a store in Paris. Photo: AFP

The UN  agency said people should not underestimate “the importance of your decisions” and encouraged extra precaution for holiday gatherings, even within the family. 

If possible, the WHO said celebrations should be held outdoors and “participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing.”

For indoor festivities, the WHO said limiting the number of guests and ensuring good ventilation were key to reducing the risk of infection.

“It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy,” the health agency said in a statement.

The plea came as the agency noted that “Covid-19 transmission across the European region remains widespread and intense,” even though some “fragile progress” had been made.

“There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it,” WHO Europe said.

The WHO's European Region comprises 53 countries and includes Russia and several countries in Central Asia, a region that has registered more than 22 million cases of the new coronavirus and close to 500,000 deaths.

In the last seven days, nearly 1.7 million new cases have been recorded, as well as more than 34,500 deaths.

As a second wave of the novel coronavirus is sweeping over the continent, many countries have once again introduced tough measures to curb the spread.

On Wednesday, several new measures were imposed, including the closure of non-essential shops in Germany and pubs and restaurants in Britain.

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HEALTH

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has some of the best fertility clinics in Europe and people travel from all over for assisted reproduction techniques here, both because of the high success rates and standard of care, but what are the invitro fertilisation rules in Spain?

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has the second lowest fertility rate in the EU, with an average of 1.23 children per woman, according to the latest data provided by the European Statistical Office, Eurostat, corresponding to 2019 and updated at the end of June 2021.

A report by the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), says that more and more couples are having problems conceiving and many are choosing to undergo assisted reproductive techniques in order to become parents.  

They consider infertility as: “the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of sexual intercourse with normal frequency and without the use of any method of conception”.

Although male infertility factors are responsible for between 25 percent to 35 percent of cases, the number of older women who want to have children in Spain is the number one issue, the society explains.

But, it’s not just Spaniards who use fertility clinics in Spain, people come from all over Europe and even further afield. A recent study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that five percent of European fertility care involves patients cross border travel and that the most popular European destinations are Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Belgium.

In 2019, Spanish fertility clinics carried out 18,457 treatment cycles for foreigners, the majority from France and Italy. According to Barcelona IVF, the French, English and Italian are the ones who travel the most to Spain to undergo fertility treatments.

So what are the rules on IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques in Spain? 

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain states that any woman over 18 years old can undergo reproductive techniques in Spain regardless of marital status and sexual orientation. Egg freezing for future use is also allowed.

This legal framework establishes that assisted reproductive techniques can only be used when there are possibilities of success and when they do not pose a serious risk to the health of the patient.

The IVF law in Spain does not allow for uterus transplants or the use of surrogates or gestational carriers.  

While the law has not yet incorporated any mention of ROPA techniques, this is also offered in Spain. The ROPA method is used when women in a same-sex relationship want to share parenthood, whereby one provides the egg and the other one carries the baby.

What is the law on PGD and PGS testing?

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD is when the embryos are tested for specific inherited genetic issues such as cystic fibrosis. PGS also referred to as PGT-A is Preimplantation Genetic Screening or Testing and tests to see whether the embryo is genetically normal. The second one is typically used for women over the age of 35 or for those who have had multiple implantation failures or miscarriages.

Both types of tests are legal in Spain, however, the IVF law prohibits these tests to allow for selecting the sex of the baby or for physical characteristics. In some countries, such as the US for example, it’s very common to find out the sex of the embryo when these tests are carried out.

What are the rules for IVF in public health care?

Assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF and artificial semination are available through the public health care system in Spain, however, out of the more than 400 fertility centres in Spain only between 10 and 20 percent are public centres.

READ ALSO: Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

This means that there are also long waitlists for reproductive techniques through the public system, as well as stricter rules. According to the latest data available, wait lists for IVF are just over one year, however, in many regions, this can go up to two years or longer. In fact, waiting much longer than this is not uncommon.

The government laws establish that the maximum age to undergo these treatments in the public health system is 40 years in the case of women and 55 years for men. This age limit drops to 38 in the case of insemination with a partner’s semen.

The state guarantees a maximum of three rounds of IVF, six if it is by artificial insemination with donor sperm and four if it is with a partner’s sperm. 

Some regions in Spain, have their own rules however such as Madrid which raised the age to 45 and increased the number of rounds from two to four. 

READ ALSO: Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45

What are the laws on egg and sperm donations?

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain also regulates egg and sperm donation. Egg and sperm donation in Spain is anonymous, voluntary and altruistic.  

The choice of the donor will only be made by a medical team and cannot be selected by the patients, however, doctors will try to match certain physical characteristics. 

Is embryo donation/ embryo adoption legal in Spain?

Yes, according to Article 11 of the law 14/2006 embryo donation or embryo adoption as it is commonly referred to is legal in Spain. Donations must be anonymous and altruistic. 

A couple may wish to donate their embryos if they have a surplus and have already completed their family, while a couple or single woman may want to adopt an embryo if there have issues with their eggs or sperm.

What are the costs of IVF in Spain? 

IVF is a costly process when you go privately, but prices in Spain can be almost half of those you would pay in the US for example. According to the IVF Abroad Patient’s Guide 2022 for IVF using your own eggs, the costs range from €3,600 to €6,700. 

If using an egg donor, it can range from €5,900 to €8,500. For IVF using embryo donation, the costs range from €3,000 to €5,000 and for IVF involving egg freezing, the costs range from €3,500 to €4,700.

Medications for the injections are typically not included in these prices and can cost an extra €1,000 on top. 

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