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VALENCIA

UPDATE: Valencia closes bars and restaurants and wants curfew set at 8pm

The Valencia region has introduced strict new measures in an attempt to curb coronavirus infections as hospitals reach crisis point.

UPDATE: Valencia closes bars and restaurants and wants curfew set at 8pm
Photo: AFP

All bars and restaurants will be forced to shut down entirely unless they offer take-away service, while hotel restaurants will be able to serve hotel guests only.

In addition, all non-essential businesses must close by 6pm although supermarkets and pharmacies can remain open until later. Gyms and sporting installations have also been ordered to close, however, schools and universities will continue with classes on site.

Regional president Ximo Puig announced the new rules on Tuesday and said they would come into force from Thursday morning for at least two weeks.

He said that 29 munipalities across the region would have perimetre confinements in place to prevent people coming in an out except for those with justified cause such as work, study or to visit vulnerable dependents. 

The region has already closed its borders until at least January 31st.

 

The announcement came as the latest data revealed that infections had shot up across the eastern region and that more than 50 percent of hospital ICU beds were occupied by coronavirus patients.

Between Monday January 11th and Sunday January 17th, health authorities in the region registered 36,065 new cases (20,510 in the province of Valencia, 11,812 in Alicante and 3,703 in Castellón), representing an increase of 63.16 percent compared to the previous week.

It now has a cumulative incidence rate of 896.12 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, far above Spain's nationwide average of 689.27.

A total of 316 people died last week due to covid (187 in Valencia, 94 in Alicante and 35 in Castellón), which is 60 more than the previous week, an increase of 23.43 percent, and a figure equivalent to the total of death toll during September and October combined. Monday saw a new record of deaths in one day when 95 were registered.

“The virus is killing more than ever and spreading in an extraordinary way, so that calls for extraordinary measures,” Puig said in a televised address on Tuesday.

“We have a few terrible weeks left ahead of us and now is not the time to lower our guard and relax,” he warned. “We must avoid social contact as much as possible.”

To examine the epidemological situation for each municipalitiy as well as discovering which zones are confined, use the interactive map provided by Valencia's Generalitat.

Puig called for the curfew across the region to be brought forward to 8pm, a move that has been requested by other regions in Spain but that was initially rejected by Spain’s government because it didn’t fall into parameters set within the current State of Alarm.

Under nationwide rules, regions have the authority to choose to set the curfew within anestablished window of 10pm to midnight and 5am to 7am.

The region of Castilla y León has unilaterally declared that the curfew begins at 8pm, and Murcia has requested the same.

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FACE MASKS

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first. 

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