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Spanish PM Sánchez calls for new measures amid ‘real risk’ of rising Covid cases

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned the population of a "real risk" of a new wave of infections as a result of the more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant and called for preventative measures to be stepped up.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the rise of Covid-19 infections represented "a clear and real warning" to Spanish people's health. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / POOL

In a six-minute televised address on Sunday morning, Sánchez said the presidents of all of Spain’s regions would attend an emergency meeting online on Wednesday afternoon “to evaluate new measures that can be put in place over the next few weeks”.

Despite the incidence rate of the virus variant still being below that of other neighbouring countries, he said the rise of infections still represented “a clear and real warning to the health of our fellow Spaniards and, as such, must compel us to intensify our actions”.

As of Friday, the incidence rate stood at 511 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the last 14-day period, according to the Spanish health ministry.

However, Sánchez said the situation looked much better than a year earlier: “It’s true that the characteristics of this new wave are different. It’s worth noting that although the infection numbers are higher, our hospitalisation and ICU admission figures are lower than last year. The first conclusion to be drawn is that vaccines work,” he said, urging people to continue to get vaccinated.

More than 80 percent of over-60s in Spain have received the booster jab to date, while almost 90 percent of Spaniards are fully vaccinated, a far higher level of coverage than that seen in most other EU countries.

In Germany, for example, just 70.2 percent of the total population were fully vaccinated as of December 17th while 30.3 percent had had a booster, according to the country’s Robert Koch Institute.

Spain currently has 6,667 patients in hospital with Covid-19 or around 5.3 percent of the total capacity, while Covid-19 patients in intensive care make up 14 percent of the available beds, according to El Pais.

This time last year, when the vaccination programme was still to begin, the incidence rate was just 207, but there were 11,366 patients in hospital with Covid-19 – occupying 9.2 percent of available beds.

And in intensive care, 20.4 percent of the total capacity was taken up by Covid-19 patients this time last year.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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