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VACCINE

What foreigners in Spain’s Valencia region need to know about getting the Covid vaccine

Valencia’s regional president has stated that all foreigners living in the region will receive the Covid-19 vaccine “when it’s their turn” as long as they register. Here's everything we know so far.

What foreigners in Spain's Valencia region need to know about getting the Covid vaccine
Photos: Francois Lo Presti,Thomas Sanson/AFP

Generalitat Valenciana president Ximo Puig made the announcement following the news that in Andalusia in southern Spain regional health authorities said only foreigners with public healthcare would get the inoculation, a decision which they have since backtracked on. 

On Thursday March 4th Puig said that “without a doubt” foreign nationals who are living in Valencia would get the vaccine and that his government’s objective is to “vaccinate everyone”.

This will mean that the 70,000 UK nationals, 1,000 Americans and the other 269,000 foreign nationals living in Alicante province alone will get access to the vaccine that’s only in the hands of public hospitals, even if they only have private medical insurance and don’t pay social security contributions to Spain. 

The same will apply to foreigners in La Comunidad Valencia’s two other provinces – Valencia and Castellón.

The one prerequisite is to have a Valencian public healthcare card – the SIP – which for those who don’t pay social security contributions will likely be a temporary public health subscription for them to gain access to the vaccine. 

This will not entitle them to get free healthcare (they do have to pay an unnamed amount as if it were a private hospital treatment, this could be the convenio especial mentioned below), although it hasn’t been announced yet whether foreigners without public healthcare will have to pay for the Covid vaccine itself.  

According to government estimates, up to 20,000 British nationals in Alicante are not registered on public health databases and could therefore go unnoticed by the regional health system if they don’t make their existence known. 

This includes second homeowners who spend extended periods of time in Spain but use only private medical insurance, or long-term tourists who are staying in hotel accommodation and aren’t registered at the town hall. 

Many have stuck around in Spain as a result of the pandemic.  

Whereas EU nationals in this situation can remain in the country (even though they technically should become residents after three months), Brexit has meant non-resident Britons now have to leave Spain and the Schengen Area after 90 days. 

What documents will I need to apply for the SIP? 

Generally speaking, Valencia’s SIP public health card is given to those who are either working or are pensioners, together with their beneficiaries.

To apply for the card, foreigners are asked for their passport, green certificate or TIE residency document, their padrón register at their local town hall and pension/work forms that prove contributions. 

You don’t necessarily have to be a resident in the Valencia region to get a SIP card as long as you pay monthly social security tax.

Although the Valencian government haven’t specified it in this case, they could be talking about the pay-in scheme called convenio especial (special agreement), which as far as we know is only available after one year of residency in Spain 

The cost depends on your age – for under 65s it’s a monthly fee of around 60€ whereas for those over that age it’s 157€.

SIP actually stands for Sistema de Información Poblacional (Population Information System). It’s the database of information Valencian health services use and cross-reference with other government records for important campaigns such as the vaccine rollout. 

So registering for a SIP in this particular case may not involve those amounts or the year-long wait for the convenio especial, as this could be a temporary scheme and record for the vaccine campaign alone.

What foreigners are likely to be asked for in this case is their padrón, as it’s a record of the applicant’s address in the Valencia region and proof that they are living there. A contract, bills or other proof of address is needed for this otherwise easy and quick process.

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Malaga authorities for example have been urging foreigners in their province to make sure they have the padrón or to make sure it’s updated as this is the best way for a wider census of people to be passed onto their local public health centres. 

According to Spanish daily La Información, the Valencian government has said that foreigners should register at their local immigration office (Extranjería) or request the SIP card or they will not receive the vaccine, including those who have private medical insurance. 

People who already have a SIP card are also being asked to make sure their details are updated so they can be contacted through this page

When will foreigners in the Valencia region be vaccinated?

Foreigners in the Valencia region who already have public health access will be included in the same group as Spaniards, which means they have to follow the general priority criteria to know when it’s their turn. 

READ ALSO

Spain’s Covid vaccine calendar: When will I get it?

Valencian President Ximo Puig stressed that the order in which ‘unregistered’ foreigners will be vaccinated hasn’t been decided yet, but according to Valencian health authorities “they will be called to get the vaccine but in the last place on the list in their corresponding groups.”

“Everyone will be vaccinated but we need them to apply for the SIP card, or to update the one they have to be able to locate them”.

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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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