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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Woman, 101 and man, 98, beat Covid-19
01 April 2020

FINDING out that a treasured elderly relative has tested positive for Covid-19 is devastating and heartbreaking, since this is the most vulnerable and at-risk slice of the population – but hope is out there, as two patients at either end of the country have proven.

A woman from the Pyrénéen town of Biescas (Huesca province, Aragón) who is thought to have caught the virus during a family funeral at the beginning of March, has just been discharged after two weeks in hospital – despite her loved ones having been preparing for the worst.

After all, at the age of 101, they did not expect her to recover.

She has now tested negative and is fully fit again after her fortnight at Huesca city's San Jorge hospital, and is back home in Biescas – where she was the first resident to catch the virus, and where she lives with her daughter.

Her recovery has 'given a great deal of hope and encouragement' to her family to 'keep on fighting', says Biescas' mayoress Nuria Pargada, who says all the relatives, friends and neighbours who were frightened they were going to lose her are 'deeply grateful' to all the healthcare staff and everyone else who supported them through their traumatic ordeal.

Biescas has ended up with over 30 cases of Coronavirus, of whom 20 or so are in Huesca's San Jorge hospital.

Three more, all regulars at the pensioners' drop-in centre, have died, and the town hall declared yesterday (Monday, March 30) as an official day of mourning.

Over 900 kilometres, or nine hours by car, away from the 101-year-old survivor, Granada-born Antonio Magdaleno Martínez, 98, has just spent a fortnight at Sevilla's Virgen del Rocío hospital being treated for Covid-19.

Given his advanced age, Antonio was not expected to survive either – but has now been discharged and is back at the Fundomar nursing home in Sevilla where he lives.

As fit as a fiddle – being 98 aside – Antonio was greeted with an outpouring of delight and affection by staff and other residents, and a chorus of whoops and cheers.

Residents in Spain in their late 90s and early 100s are far more common than elsewhere in the world, even the western world – anecdotal evidence shows that almost every small to medium-sized town has at least two or three centenarians, and that the national total could run into nearly five figures.



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Mortgage relief for business premises and utility bill payment holidays agreed
01 April 2020

SELF-EMPLOYED persons who own a business premises will not have to pay the mortgage on it until the month after quarantine ends, where they have been forced to shut down altogether or their earnings have 'significantly reduced'.

Deputy president Pablo Iglesias says this is an extension of the moratorium on mortgage repayments agreed two weeks ago for main residences for those affected, and the payment holiday includes both the interest and the capital.

If, for example, quarantine finishes on April 11 as provisionally decided, sole traders will not have to pay the mortgage on their business premises until the last day of May.

Also, they do not have to pay their electricity, gas or other fuel bills linked to the business if they are no longer trading during the lockdown, or have had to cut their workload drastically.

Sole traders, small and medium-sized firms and self-employed workers are able to shelve their Social Security, or National Insurance quotas – payable monthly at a flat rate starting from €283.31 – for up to six months, and their debt repayments until June this year.

At the moment, the moratorium on Social Security payments during the quarantine and the delaying of all others within the next six months only applies to those who have seen their income drop by at least 75%, and self-employed workers across Spain claim the measures are not enough.



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Quarantine tightens: What's open, who's still trading and what can you buy?
30 March 2020

SPAIN'S government has apologised to the public for its 'delay' in shutting down all bar 'essential services', increasing the national confinement further – but says it was up again 'technical issues'.

Minister for work Yolanda Díaz says: “I'm conscious that many businesses and industries were worried and wanted to know how far the measures would affect them, and for that, I apologise.

“There's been no improvisation, and the move has not caused debate or conflict within Parliament, but the delay was due to technical, not legal, issues.

“The technical description of many sectors needed a bit of time spent on it,” she says, explaining that defining exactly what could be considered 'essential' and which businesses could feasibly be ordered to close was not a cut-and-dried exercise.

“I'm sorry about that, because I know perfectly well how much very legitimate concern was felt in many industries.

“This measure is necessary, however, so we can all get better and get out of this crisis as soon as possible – in the financial and social sense.

“We have no more tools at our disposal than that of simply staying in lockdown – although we're very conscious that this is extremely hard on us all.”

The announcement about the tightening of quarantine measures has inevitably led to speculation among the public as to what is open.

According to the State Official Bulletin (BOE), businesses and other public services considered 'essential' and which will continue – albeit subject to reduced hours in some cases – are medical, healthcare, care and pharmaceutical activities; transport of food and some goods and passengers; gas, water and electricity supply; establishments selling food, drink and other products of primary necessity; establishments selling pharmaceutical, hygiene, orthopaedic and optical products; newsagencies and other press outlets, including stationers'; tobacconists; laundrettes and dry-cleaners'; establishments selling food and other essentials for animals – and, of course, vets; petrol, oil and diesel refineries, service stations and other fuel distributors; telecommunications operators and physical shops, and establishments selling or repairing technological and telecommunications equipment; ports and airports; communications media – press, websites, radio and television – and State security forces and law enforcement agencies.

Those which will not be permitted to continue working include anything leisure- and entertainment-related – although this does not stop home deliveries from Amazon or retailers selling similar items; fashion and accessories retailers; hairdressers'; all factories and logistics plants which are not involved in any of the services and supplies listed above – although those considered 'non-essential' are permitted to stay open if they adapt their facilities to manufacturing healthcare material, such as masks, gloves and hospital equipment; and all building and construction work, except emergency plumbing, electricity and building repair, meaning any work on building new houses, schools, hospitals or other infrastructure will stop.



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Guide for volunteer shoppers during quarantine: Keeping you and them safe
30 March 2020

EXAMPLES of public security officers helping out vulnerable members of the public during the Coronavirus lockdown have been pouring in thick and fast – some, like the Armed Forces emergency response unit (UME) in Gijón (Asturias), delivering supermarket shopping to an elderly lady living alone, have gone viral – and law enforcement, disaster management and safety agents have found their job descriptions widening lately to 'personal shopper' (even at their own expense, as this family in Calpe found out), pharmaceutical distributors, and even birthday-cake delivery 'drivers' (which delighted the unsuspecting Toñi in Jaca on her special day).

But members of the public have also been coming into their own: Town halls across the country, although mostly closed now, have been organising recruitment drives for volunteers to fetch shopping, medication and other necessaries for the elderly, disabled, sick, and those who otherwise cannot get out, such as people whose nearest stores are too far to walk and they do not have, or cannot drive, a car.

Also, even though visiting for social reasons – family included – is not allowed until the quarantine is lifted, running essential errands for those who cannot do so themselves is technically permitted; by 'technically', we mean that you'll need to be able to demonstrate that's what you're doing if the police stop you, so town hall schemes are ideal as they will give you a signed document as proof.

Whether you are volunteering with your local authority, or whether you are helping a neighbour, friend or relative, you still need to exercise extreme precaution – and so do they. Strangers posing as 'helpers' but whose intentions are anything but may be more likely to take advantage of the lockdown and, as bullies tend to be cowards, will pick on the elderly and others whom they consider 'easy targets'.



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Supermarket opening times and over-65s' priority slots explained
27 March 2020

SEVERAL supermarkets in Spain have started opening slots exclusively for shoppers aged 65 and over, and most have changed their regular hours – as well as their procedures – during the lockdown.

Hours have been changing in the last week or so as the State of Alarm continues, but the most recent update is believed to still be current at the time of publication, and anecdotal evidence shows this information continues to be correct.

Condis supermarkets is giving priority to the over-65s between 09.00 and 10.00 every morning in all its stores, and Carrefour has made the same time slot 'priority' for this age group, and will also prioritise the over-65s when dealing with online or telephone orders.

The latter is only for the Madrid region at present, but may extend nationwide if the need arises.

El Corte Inglés – the 'Waitrose of Spain', which is normally only present in the major cities – attends firstly to those of State pension age between 10.00 and 11.00 in its Hípercor outlets, and between 09.00 and 10.00 in its Supercor stores, as well as offering 'any other assistance needed' for this age group such as fetching goods for those who cannot do so themselves.

Caprabo also, personally, helps the over-65s with their shopping if they need it once they are inside the building, and they are able to jump the queue between 09.00 and 10.00.

This also applies to anyone who is younger, but disabled or with restricted mobility.

The same applies in Eroski, in its Eroski hypermarkets, Eroski Center, Eroski City and its Eroski Familia self-service establishments, although on a 'priority' rather than an 'exclusive' basis.



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Taxi drivers turn down six-figure grant: “Give it to the health service”
25 March 2020

MADRID taxi drivers were offered a total of €132,000 to help with fuel costs and the expense of cleaning their cars at a time when their only permitted trade is transporting healthcare workers to and from their workplace, and those with mobility problems to supermarkets or pharmacies, meaning their takings are radically cut.

They have also had to slash their fees by 50% in accordance with an emergency Royal Decree, or Bill of Law, as part of their essential service during the national quarantine – meaning they are earning less than ever.

So the €132,000 offered by the General Directorate of Transport would have come in very handy – but they have turned it down.

The cash was ready to be handed over to Madrid's Professional Taxi Federation (FPTM) on Monday, but its members say they want it to be donated to the health service instead for buying masks and other protective gear for staff, and for respirators.

“If there's one thing that's bringing us all closer together these days – even at a distance – it's precisely that feeling of how we can only get through this by joining forces and staying united,” says an FPTM spokesperson.

“Tougher weeks are ahead, but between us, we have over 500 vehicles available for those who most need them at the moment – healthcare workers.”

The FPTM says it also wants its services to reach remote, rural parts of the Greater Madrid region.

Even though the financial aid they have been offered will be ploughed into hospitals to help protect staff and buy necessary equipment for patients admitted with the Covid-19 Coronavirus, Madrid's cabbies are not entirely on their own.

So far, two companies – Midas and Airlife – have given them car-cleaning machines so they can completely valet and sterilise their vehicles at least daily, in addition to the disinfecting they carry out before and after every passenger.



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Tourism authority advice for traders affected by lockdown
25 March 2020


TOURISM authorities in the Valencia region have released a series of recommendations for those who work in, or rely on, the industry for their income.

Due to the national quarantine, restaurants, bars and holiday accommodation are all shut – with the exception of hotels housing 'stranded' tourists or those which have been adapted with medical equipment to use as additional hospital facilities – and Easter is, effectively, cancelled, since the lockdown may continue until that weekend, all the fiesta parades have been called off, and contagion risk outside Spain's borders may mean foreign travel is strongly advised against in other countries as well as nationally.

But the advice from the Comunidad Valenciana's regional tourism board is valid for the rest of the country, and includes ways of making the enforced shutdown pay.

Luckily, it has not happened in high summer, when most of Spain, or at least its coasts, earns the majority of its holidaymaker income, says regional tourism secretary Francesc Colomer.

He assures his department is working on the industry 'returning with greater strength than ever' after quarantine is over – and in fact, the more optimistic traders nationwide are quietly confident that once the country 'regains its freedom', the public will 'go mad' and do everything they have not been able to do for weeks, and more besides.

“Public health is a priority, but the economy in general and tourism authorities, in particular, should be at the heart of services to the people,” Colomer says.

“It's time to stay at home in order to come back stronger than ever – because what's important is protecting ourselves so that, when it's all over, we'll be healthy enough to start travelling again.

“Tourism authorities are still working and are by your side, whether you're a large or small company or an entire destination, via our online channels, offering you information, help and training.

“Our aim is for the tourism industry to make an even bigger comeback once we've survived the pandemic.”


Make use of the down-time

'Empathy' is important, says Colomer – not least because the extreme stress of financial hardship, job loss and fears of another recession could cause the workforce to become physically debilitated; stress weakens the immune system, and would make people more vulnerable to contagion and put them at a greater risk of non-recovery if they catch the virus.



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Police and waitress buy groceries from their own pockets for strapped family
24 March 2020

GUARDIA Civil officers in a northern Alicante-province coastal town bought groceries out of their own pockets for a family with practically no income and who were in dire straits because of the national quarantine.

Marta, from Calpe, got a call from the social services cancelling her appointment due to the lockdown – and she had hoped to get help from them to feed her children.

Her two daughters, aged 10 and six, receive free school meals, but schools are now closed nationwide – and she also has a son aged two-and-a-half.

“I was so desperate, I didn't know what to do – I just left the house, heading for the town hall, to try to get help. You can tell an adult that they have to grin and bear it, but how can I look my three children in the eye and tell them they can't have breakfast because there's literally nothing in the cupboard or the fridge?” Marta said.

The Guardia Civil caught her 200 metres from her home and asked where she was going, and told her the town hall was shut and to go home.

Once there, not knowing what else to do, she rang the 112 emergency helpline as a last resort.

“The girl who took my call took my details and told me not to worry, that she would sort it for me,” Marta explains.

Minutes later, she got a call from the Guardia Civil.

“They told me the Red Cross couldn't bring me food, because they were still trying to work out how to do it and wouldn't have a system set up for a couple of days at least.

“Then they asked me what I needed. I said, just the very basics. I don't want anything fancy, just pasta or something so they can eat, and something basic for breakfast.”

She assumed the Guardia Civil would contact a local charity or food bank.

But when she opened the door less than an hour later, she found herself face to face with the two officers who had stopped her earlier and sent her home.

And they had not just bought the usual pasta, dried lentils and rice.

“There were biscuits, milk cartons, chorizo, pasta, sliced bread, yoghurts, tinned tomato, rice, mandarins, apples – and even sweets for the kids!” Said the astonished mum.

The officers had bought the goods with their own, personal money.

Marta said she was sobbing with relief – but the officers' kindness was only the start of the story.

News of her plight began to spread around town and, a couple of days later, she answered the door to two different Guardia Civil officers weighed down with supermarket bags.

“They said these were from Ana, who works at Grizzly's Bar on the Fustera beach, had heard about us and wanted to help,” Marta revealed.

“There was another full box of milk cartons, several pre-packed ready meals, ham, sliced bread, sponge cakes, two packets of cereal, two jars of pâté, beans, chickpeas, potatoes – and money.



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Great Spanish films for a rainy day!
23 March 2020

IT'S GOING TO be a long month now that the Covid-19 prevention confinement has been extended to Saturday, April 11 – but perhaps now is the right time for it, if ever there was one. Outside, it's raining across most of the country, especially on the coasts, so you probably wouldn't have been inclined to go outside anyway.

And what better way to lighten up a wet, miserable day – quarantine or no quarantine – than curling up on the sofa with a great film?

This could be your chance to watch all the Spanish films you've heard are so good, so you don't feel out of the loop. Even though mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, and massive international productions, including UK favourites, are shown in cinemas in Spain as they break, the line-up for your local flicks will nearly always include at least one latest home-grown release. Unlike in France where the law states that a minimum of 40% of films shown at cinemas must be French or from a French-speaking country, there's no such requirement in Spain – only a conscious effort to give national films a good airing so the Spanish arts industry does not disappear amongst the glittery mist of Tinseltown productions.



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China donates 500,000 masks at Felipe VI's request; Local Chinese communities supply protection to police and health workers
22 March 2020

CHINESE expats in Spain have been donating surgical masks to police, hospitals and care homes – over 3,000 were given to the Guardia Civil in the Valencia-province coastal town of Oliva by the local community from the giant Asian country.

All over Spain, residents originally from China have been handing over huge consignments of masks, and earlier today (Friday), King Felipe VI spoke to the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation to express his thanks for a 'Coronavirus pack' which arrived safely in the country.

It includes testing kits and over half a million masks, which were flown into Zaragoza (Aragón) and will be distributed to where they are most needed over the next few days.

Health authorities are advising people to avoid buying disposable masks unless they are actually infected or in contact with anyone who is, but recommends that anyone who has a non-disposable one at home – such as cyclists' anti-air pollution masks – to use it when they go out to buy essentials.

People are also advised to tie their hair back or cover it up if they wear it long.

DIY masks, scarves, and home-made versions with kitchen roll are often seen worn by those who need to leave their houses.



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