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VACCINES

UPDATE: How is Spain’s vaccination campaign going in April?

The number of vaccinated Spaniards now surpasses the number of people who had the virus. But some regions are doing better than others.

UPDATE: How is Spain's vaccination campaign going in April?
Photos: CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP

What’s the latest?

More people in Spain have received at least one dose of the vaccine than have had coronavirus during the course of the pandemic.

6.1 million people have received at least one vaccine, while there have been 3.3 million cases in the country since the start of the pandemic. In total, Spain has injected 9 million doses of the vaccine, with 2.9 million having received both doses. This represents a total of 6.2 percent of the population who have been fully vaccinated. 

However, this is far off the current aim of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the end of the summer, which is around 27 million people.

On April 6th, Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sánchez said that currently Spain was on track to vaccinate 33 million by the end of August 2021, meaning that if this is achieved, the country will have vaccinated more than 70 percent of adults. 

The vaccination efforts have picked up this month with more than five million Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses expected to be delivered over the course of April. This has been added to the one million extra doses of the German and American inoculations it was sent on March 29th.

The 1.3 million Janssen vaccine will also arrive this month and are expected to be administered to people aged 66 and over from mid-April. This vaccine only requires one dose. 

How does Spain’s vaccine rollout compare to other countries?

Across the EU, vaccinations have been hampered by supply issues. Spain has administered around 18.70 doses per 100 people, as of April 5th. This is slightly better than countries such as Germany, France and Italy, but behind countries such as Finland, Austria and Denmark. The top EU performers are Malta with 48.12 per 100 vaccinated, Hungary with 33.91 and Estonia, which has vaccinated 22.0 per 100 people. 

Spain’s first priority groups were care home residents and staff, front-line health workers, other care staff, and the significantly disabled. Most people in these groups have now been vaccinated.

The country then moved on to the over 80 year-olds, as well as key workers such as teachers, police, firefighters and pharmacists. As of April 1st, 71 percent of the over 80s had been vaccinated. Spain is currently vaccinating those in their 70s as well as the rest of the keyworkers. 

Spain had been giving the older population the Pfzier-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, while the AstraZeneca jab was reserved for key workers under the age of 55. This however has now changed because of the possible link between AstraZeneca and blood clots, and on April 7th it was announced that this vaccine would only be given to the over 60s. Spain has now approved the vaccine for people aged between 60 to 69. 

However, each Spanish region adopts slightly different approaches to their vaccination efforts and some are pulling ahead of others, with supply issues holding certain regions back.

In which Spanish regions is the vaccine campaign going well?

Rural regions with smaller populations have administered the most doses per 100,000 residents, while Andalusia has administered the most vaccines in total.

Asturias leads the way, giving out 25,959 doses per 100,000 inhabitants, with is 9.3 percent of the population fully vaccinated. 

Castilla y León’s vaccination rate is 25,427 doses per 100,000 residents. 9.2 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated. 

In third place, Cantabría had handed out 21,857 doses, with over 44,961 having been fully vaccinated. La Rioja and Extremadura are next in line, with similar roll out rates to Aragon

Castilla La-Mancha, Navarra, Galicia, Andalusia and Madrid have all fully vaccinated around six percent of their populations. 

Andalusia leads the way in terms of the number of people vaccinated, with around 1.4 million doses having been administered. 

Catalonia has administered 19,663 doses of the vaccine per 100,000 residents but is in second place when it comes to the total number of doses given at just over 1.2 million. 

READ ALSO:

Which Spanish regions are falling behind in their vaccine rollout?

In terms of the vaccine rate per 100,000 inhabitants, Melilla, the Balearic Islands and Cueta are performing the worst. 

The Canary Islands, Valencia and the Basque Country are also near the bottom of the pile, having fully vaccinated around 5 percent of their populations. 

However, after Andalusia and Catalonia in terms of the total number of vaccines administered, Valencia is doing well with 768,371 doses having been given. 

This is followed by Castilla y León with a total of 534,134 vaccines given and Galicia with 478,450 vaccines having been administered.

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MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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