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VACCINE

UPDATE: How is Spain’s vaccine drive going?

Amid delays and setbacks due to vaccine supply issues, the good news is that seven Spanish regions will this week start to vaccinate over 80s in the general population.

UPDATE: How is Spain’s vaccine drive going?
Image: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Andalusia, Aragón, Murcia, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Catalonia and Valencia have all announced that they will now start vaccinating the oldest members of society.  

So far, Spain has been concentrating on vaccinating priority groups, which includes residents in care homes and those who work there, healthcare workers and those who need full time carers, but who do not reside in institutions.

Other regions are still in the process of vaccinating these priority groups, but both Galicia and Castilla-La Mancha say that they will also be ready to start inoculating the over 80s by next week.

In Valencia, over 90s will be given priority and in Galicia, a random selection has designated the first vaccinations for the over 80s will be for those whose surname begins with the letter ‘H’.

Spain’s over 80s are to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, while the AstraZeneca vaccine will be reserved for other key workers under 55s, such as teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the armed forces, who will be the next priority groups. Healthcare professionals not working in hospitals will also be included in this group, such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, home assistance carers.

Because of the shortage of Moderna vaccines however, Spain will manufacture four of the existing Covid-19 vaccines on home ground, a move government officials believe will speed up the country's inoculation campaign.

The Spanish Health Ministry has said that they expect 80% of over 80s will have been vaccinated by the end of March.

Spain is expecting to receive four million vaccine doses this month, with larger shipments due in March.

Regions have also been preparing for the large-scale vaccine rollout by designating special vaccination centres. In Madrid, Atletico’s stadium has been confirmed as a mass vaccination centre, while Andalusia and Murcia also have plans to convert sporting venues and convention centres.

Catalonia's public health secretary has also put forward the idea of mass vaccination centres inside landmarks such as and Gaudi's Sagrada Família and Barça's Camp Nou.

Spain has a target of vaccinating 70 percent of its population by summer.

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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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