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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.

Lovers of the A-2' identified: Couple snapped kissing in the snow given free trip to Paris
27 January 2021

A PHOTOGRAPHER who took a once-in-a-lifetime shot of a couple kissing in the middle of a motorway when it was ankle-deep in snow has managed to trace the subjects. 

Pedro and Blanca's reconciliation immortalised by María de la Cruz Valdemoro on Instagram (@mariadelacruzvaldemoro)

María de la Cruz Valdemoro snapped a young man and woman in a passionate embrace as the snow fell around them on a completely traffic-free A-2 motorway, which had been shut and was being used as a footpath.

She posted it on social media, asking the couple featured to come forward so she could give them the original as a keepsake.

Neither Pedro, 25 nor Blanca, 26 use social media, so it was their friends who identified them and led to their getting in touch with María de la Cruz.

It turned out the young couple had first got together when they were 17, but about two years ago, broke off their relationship to 'give themselves some space' and decide where they were headed in life.

On the very day they were photographed in the middle of the A-2 Madrid-Zaragoza motorway underneath the signs pointing to the A-6 and Burgos, and the C/ Arturo Soria, they had decided to meet, just as friends and .....

 

 

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Brits top global binge-drinking list, Spain near the bottom with 'more sensible approach' to alcohol consumption
26 January 2021

LONG-HELD stereotypes about wine-soaked Mediterranean culture and a laissez-faire attitude to drinking turn out to be completely the opposite of reality – but those about 'boozy Brits' are, statistically, true, according to the latest Global Drug Survey.

Alcohol is seen as a small part of and a mere complement to social gatherings in Spain, not the entire purpose, says the founder of the Global Drugs Survey - and Spaniards are the second-least likely European nationality to get ‘blind drunk’, with only Italians being more abstemious

Despite alcohol in general, and particularly wine – largely because it is home-produced and very little of it is imported – being much cheaper in southern European countries, binge-drinking appears to be far more common in the UK and Anglo-Saxon nations in general; in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and to a certain extent, France, more so in the south, wine-drinking is normally associated with meals, and spirits and liqueurs as a shot to round off a dinner or a nip in a coffee, whilst beer is treated as a refreshing drink on a hot evening.

The survey does have its flaws, of course: It relies upon self-reporting, meaning there is no guarantee all participants are telling the whole truth, but the 100,000-plus people questioned all over the world is thought to be a stratified sample, meaning it reflects a microcosm of society.

It was conducted between November and December 2019, before the pandemic struck, and its main focus was finding out how often people in the various countries were likely to get themselves blind-drunk.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Rules change for drivers overtaking cyclists
25 January 2021

A ROAD Traffic Act reform means the way drivers are required to overtake cyclists has changed, with even more cautious measures set to come into force very soon.

[Archive photo (Wikimedia Commons) of cyclists taking part in Spain's answer to the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, along the stage through the city of Vigo (Galicia)]

The exact date on which the new rules will be effective has not yet been revealed, but motorists should act as though they are already valid, since failing to do so once it becomes law could mean a €200 fine and three points deducted from one's licence.

In Spain, driving licences start off with 12 points when 'clean', and points are deducted for motoring offences, with an automatic ban once all 12 have been used up – reinstating these normally requires paying for specified courses at official driving schools, as points-related offences are never 'spent' after a set time period.

Until now, drivers have been required to leave a margin of at least 1.5 metres (approximately five feet) when overtaking cyclists on roads, and are permitted to cross the central line, even if it is an unbroken white strip, to do so.

Now, the distance between car and bicycle when passing has increased to two metres (6'6”) and drivers must slow to at least 20 kilometres per hour below the speed limit.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Biting winds or beach weather? What to expect from a Spanish winter, in figures
25 January 2021

YOU'VE read about Spain's record rainfall, wind speed, wave height, coldest and hottest temperatures (if you haven't, check out the fascinating set of numbers here – and keep a note of them as conversation-starters for later), but what is a 'normal' winter like in the westernmost Mediterranean country, and how much does it differ depending upon where you are?

Of course it snows in Spain - Granada city, home of the Alhambra Palace (pictured here) is on the edge of the Sierra Nevada, one of the country's best-loved ski resorts (photo: @Spain on Twitter)

Talk to anyone in northern Europe who has only seen Spain during summer beach holidays and you'll find yourself explaining over and over again how, yes, we do have snow, hence our multiple ski resorts; yes, it does get cold in winter and, no, of course we haven't got a tan, because it's January, for goodness' sakes. But do Spanish residents spend the winter wishing they were in Scotland because it's warmer, or are gloves and woolly scarves really redundant south of the Pyrénées?

 

Research into four decades of temperatures in a 'normal' Spanish winter

Thankfully, the recent freezing snap brought by 'Storm' Filomena - when thick snow blocked roads and shut schools in Madrid for weeks and parts of the north registered temperatures below -30ºC in the early hours - has now passed, and although other weather fronts significant enough to be given human names have been queuing up to hit us, the Arctic climate of early January seems to have left us in peace for now. For some of us in Spain, that means a light-ish coat and a thin-ish top are enough for braving the outside world, whilst for others of us, it means step past your front door without your thermals at your peril.

To find out where on the scale we are based upon where we live, research has just been compiled by the State meteorological agency, AEMET.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Tourism bosses call for swift vaccine roll-out to save industry, but are 'optimistic' about British visitor numbers for 2021
25 January 2021

SPAIN'S tourism industry representatives are calling for the Covid vaccine roll-out to be accelerated as much as possible to avoid another 'lost year' for one of the country's biggest sources of employment and income. 

Around 20 associations, all in some way linked to the holiday or hotel and catering sectors, staged a meeting in Madrid where they urged the government to take swift action to keep businesses afloat.

Health ministry sources have already estimated that up to 70% of Spain's population could be vaccinated – both doses – before summer starts, but the tourism industry is concerned about what will happen if this is not the case, and wants action to be taken to help increase the figure to at least 80% or 90%.

This said, chairman of the Tourism Round Table meeting in the capital, Juan Molas, says sector traders are feeling 'a little more optimistic' this year, given that the country's largest output nation for summer visitors, the UK, is 'moving on quickly' with its vaccination programme.

Now onto the over-75s, many of whom have had their first dose, the UK is not moving as quickly with second doses as Spain, which has opted to give both jabs to each sector of the population before moving onto the next – by contrast, Britain is now offering appointments for March for those who had their first dose in the initial two weeks of January.

But by the end of March, says Molas, it is anticipated that around 15 million British residents will have been vaccinated and be safe to travel – albeit a high number of those 15 million will not be candidates for summer holidays in Spain, as they will include care home residents and the over-80s living at home.

If an average of 100 to 120 million Europeans are vaccinated within the first six months of the year, Molas estimates, Spain could potentially see about 20 to 25 million tourists from abroad by mid-May.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Over-80s next due for vaccine as care homes start getting second doses
22 January 2021

CARE home residents and staff and front-line healthcare workers have nearly all had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19, and many are already starting to receive their second jabs – after which, the next group will be the over-80s not living in nursing accommodation.

Health minister Salvador Illa said that as at the middle of this week, a million people in Spain had had their first immunisation dose – although local media sources say many care homes have started giving out the booster jab, meaning elderly people living in sheltered accommodation, those who look after them, and medical employees will already be, it is hoped, fully immune to the effects of the virus.

It is not clear whether they can still catch it and pass it on – in theory, the antibodies they receive through the injection will kill off the virus in their system, albeit probably not instantly – but the idea of the vaccine is that those who have it will not suffer any adverse effects if the SARS-CoV-2 enters their bodies.

Health workers, and those living or working in nursing homes, who have already contracted the virus or, in the case of the latter two groups, if there are any active cases on the premises, will have to wait until they all test negative before vaccines can be administered.

With the first priority 'slot' being nearly complete, Spain is nearly ready to start the second, which will be people aged more than 80 and not living in care homes.

Unlike in the UK, where the different groups of society are being vaccinated faster, Spain has opted to 'finish' one segment at a time by giving their second doses before moving onto the next group – in Britain, the over-75s are having their vaccines now care home staff and residents and hospital workers have had their first, but appointments to get a second jab are typically not available at present until March.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Self-employed workers' Covid financial help now starts at 50% income loss, down from 75%
22 January 2021

A PLANNED rise in self-employed persons' Social Security, or national insurance payments has been shelved until May instead of coming into force in January 2021, and the scope has been widened for those whose income is affected by the pandemic to claim. 

Starting with last year's lockdown in March, sole traders, business owners or freelance workers had to show their income had reduced by at least 75% as a direct result of the Covid crisis before they were able to receive any State benefits – unlike employees who, as soon as they were temporarily laid off or 'furloughed', would receive the standard monthly dole payment of 80% of their gross salary for the first six months and 60% thereafter.

Now, though, self-employed workers only have to show a 50% loss in their income.

Benefit payments, funded by Social Security – including sick pay, maternity or paternity leave, and in the case of the Covid crisis, total or partial cessation of activity either temporarily or permanently – are based upon a 'fictitious' salary on which the worker pays 30% in a monthly fee.

The minimum Social Security fee payable by a self-employed worker is around €286 a month, based upon a 'fictitious wage' of €944 a month, but the next band up is based upon a 'hypothetical' salary of €4,000 a month, costing €1,200 in Social Security, with nothing in between.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Leading British clinic opens 'fit-to-fly' Covid-testing centre on Costa del Sol
21 January 2021

GETTING a Covid test approved for cross-border travel has now become easier for residents on and visitors to the Costa del Sol – a well-known UK-based medical firm has just opened a test centre in Marbella.

Having a rapid-results travel-approved Covid test to allow air passengers to enter countries has just become easier on Spain's south coast (photo: DAM Health Group UK)

Most countries now require sight of a negative Covid test result before allowing travellers from abroad past the border – in fact, airlines are now typically asking to see it at check-in and at the boarding gates, blocking passengers without one from even going through to departures.

Earlier this month, over 100 passengers bound for Italy from the UK's London Stansted airport were grounded when, at check-in, they were found not to have taken a Covid test, erroneously believing that as either residents in Italy or Italian citizens, this was not required – as a result, they had to be tested at the on-site departures clinic at Stansted airport, one of several in the country including at Heathrow and Manchester, rebook their flights for the following day and find a hotel for the night.

And only 'official' tests are valid for travel, since they need to be accompanied with a 'fit-to-fly' certificate giving the passenger's passport number or national ID card number where they use the latter as identification for their flight.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Universities offer free fast-track Covid tests to young adults under 30 - including non-students
21 January 2021

UNIVERSITIES are starting to carry out fast-track antigen tests on adults from age 18 and under 30 in a bid to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after reports revealed that older teens and young adults were most likely to pass the condition to others because of not realising they were infected.

The Epidemiological Vigilance Network, part of the General Directorate of Public Health in Spain recently produced data showing that the most rapidly-rising sector of the population testing positive despite having no symptoms was the 15-29 age group. 

This is partly because they are more likely to have to be in contact with larger numbers of people than older adults, through school, college, university, or work in jobs that typically, in the early stages of their life in the labour market, would not normally permit home-working and are more likely to be in manual or lower-skilled positions – not necessarily through choice, but because they have less experience as an employee and, whatever their qualifications, have a more difficult time gaining access to higher-skilled rôles.

Younger children appear at present, for reasons not yet clarified, to have a lower rate of contagion than adults and older teenagers, despite also having much larger contact groups due to being in school.

Unfortunately for the 15-29 age group cited, society's knee-jerk reaction is to blame them for heavy socialising in crowds – partying without practising social distancing or wearing masks – but this is not necessarily the case; many 'illegal' parties featuring risky practices broken up by police in the past few weeks have been among older adults, in their 30s or 40s, not just among youths.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spain to donate surplus vaccines to third world and refugees, without affecting national immunisation programme
20 January 2021

SPAIN will donate a percentage of the vaccines against Covid it purchases to third-world countries, specifically to refugee and asylum-seeking communities in parts of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, where availability of immunisation drugs is not guaranteed for at least 20% of the population. 

Staff at Pfizer package up vaccines for export

It is not yet clear how many of the 140 million doses due to arrive in Spain will be sent to these countries – most of which Spain already has humanitarian aid relations with – but the donations will not affect the roll-out nationally.

The speed at which Spain carries out its national immunisation programme is not dictated by availability or cost of vaccines, but by human resources and other facilities such as space – it would not be physically possible to jab everyone in the country within weeks, which is why vaccine doses are being 'drip-fed' into countries weekly, so supplies do not exceed storage or administration capacity and 'go off', being wasted.

The Council of Ministers has agreed on a Universal Charity Vaccination Access Plan which is separate to the European-wide programme aimed at donating around 5% of acquired vaccines to countries and communities in need.

Governments across the EU agree that until the whole world is vaccinated, nobody is completely safe, given that movement of people and goods will necessarily continue and could lead to the virus continuing to spread even after the first world is immunised.

Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that it would be a 'regrettable moral catastrophe' if wealthier countries, like Spain and the rest of Europe, failed to help out in getting the planet's poorest populations immunised.

Some of the most needy communities are, in fact, in Europe already: Refugee camps in Greece, still housing those displaced by the armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Libya, among others, have been homes to these people for many years, a situation that appears unlikely to change in the near future, and where Covid outbreaks can lead to widespread tragedy.

It is not clear, either, when Spain will start to donate vaccines, but this will probably be when the national immunisation programme is well underway with the most vulnerable residents and key or front-line workers' having all received their second doses, perhaps at a time when the only ones remaining are the physically-healthy under-65s who are not in high-risk jobs.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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