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VACCINE

96-year-old becomes first in Spain to be vaccinated for Covid-19

A 96-year-old living in a care home in central Spain became the first person in the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.

96-year-old becomes first in Spain to be vaccinated for Covid-19
Araceli Hidalgo, 96, receives the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Photo: Pepe Zamora / POOL / AFP
She felt “nothing” from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.
 
With her short white hair, the pensioner living in the Los Olmos retirement home in Guadalajara got up slowly after pulling on her black jacket and walked off using a frame for support.
 
Carer Monica Tapias followed as the second Spaniard to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
 
“Araceli and Monica represent a new step full of hope today,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.
 

 
After her injection, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez walked away. Photo: Pepe Zamora / POOL / AFP      
 
The Los Olmos home was picked to kick off the country's inoculation campaign because it sits near a Pfizer storage depot, where vaccines were delivered from Belgium Saturday ahead of nationwide distribution.
   
No cases of Covid-19 have so far been detected among the staff or residents.
 
   
“It's a great source of pride and a great satisfaction for us, we're representing all the retirement homes in Spain,” director Marina Vadillo said Thursday.
   
After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Monday, the way is open for injections across the 27-member bloc.
 
Spain aims to vaccinate up to 20 million people by June, with an initial target of 2.5 million by the end of February.
   
People at elevated risk or very exposed like care home residents and medical staff will be first in line.
   
Under EU deals, the country is lined up to receive 140 million doses, enough to vaccinate 80 million people — almost twice the country's population.   
 
Extra doses will go to “nearby countries that might need them”, the health ministry said earlier this month.
   
One of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, Spain has recorded 1.8 million cases and almost 49,000 deaths.
 

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COVID-19

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon. 

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