Heavy Snowstorms Shut Down Much Of Spain

Two people walk along the M30 ringroad amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
Two people walk along the M30 ringroad amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Snowstorms across much of Spain left three people dead and caused chaos across much of the country, trapping motorists and closing the capital’s air and rail links, with more falls to come Saturday.

On Friday, Madrid experienced its heaviest snowfalls since 1971 after what the AEMET weather agency described as “exceptional and most likely historic” conditions caused by Storm Filomena.

It warned that another 20 centimetres (nearly eight inches) was expected to fall Saturday in Madrid and central Spain’s lower plains, with up to 50 centimetres at higher altitudes.

“Even if, despite the extremely difficult weather conditions, the number of incidents is relatively limited, we have three deaths to mourn,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told a news conference.

Apart from Madrid, the exceptional conditions put another four regions in the centre of the country on red alert Saturday: Aragon, Valencia, Castilla La Mancha and Catalonia.

On Twitter, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on people to stay indoors and follow the instructions of the emergency services. He paid tribute to the work of the rescue agencies who had helped hundreds of people trapped in the show overnight.

Madrid’s Barajas airport was shut down late Friday, transport officials said the snowfall disrupted traffic on nearly 400 roads, and the Renfe rail network said all trains to and from Madrid had been cancelled.

Madrid’s emergencies agency said they had worked all night to help trapped motorists, freeing a thousand vehicles. They asked others still stuck to be patient.

‘Extremely serious’

Motorist Patricia Manzanares told national television how she had been stranded without food for 15 hours on the M-40 motorway in the Madrid region.

“I’ve been here since 7 o’clock last night, there are lot of us in this situation. There are 60 centimetres of snow and we are soon going to run out of petrol” and thus lose their cars’ heating, she said.

Madrid authorities have closed the parks, as well as suspending bus services and rubbish collections in the city after a night in which the snow continued to fall steadily.

Mayor of Madrid, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida described the situation as “extremely serious” in a tweet Saturday.

A woman skis past a bus stuck in a street amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
A woman skis past a bus stuck in a street amid a heavy snowfall in Madrid on January 9, 2021. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

“We are working to clear access to hospitals as quickly as possible,” he told the La Sexta television channel Saturday. “But frankly that is complicated, it has been snowing so much.” The army had been called in on Friday to help the authorities, he added.

In Madrid itself, the army was helping to clear roads using snow ploughs and has also helped rescue some motorists.

At least two of the city’s metro lines had their services disrupted by the conditions.

Schools and universities in and around Madrid will be closed Monday and Tuesday, said the president of the region Isabel Diaz Ayuso.

Skiers — and even a man on a sled drawn by five dogs — could not resist the wintry conditions in the capital venturing out on to the normally busy Puerta del Sol.

Heavy-lorry ban

In all, 36 out of Spain’s 50 provinces declared snow alerts.

Catalonia in the southeast and Castilla La Mancha have both banned heavy goods vehicles from driving in the wintry conditions.

The historic city of Toledo asked the army for help clearing the streets, as did Albacete in the southeast, public television reported.

The exceptional conditions also hit sports fixtures, forcing the postponement of Atletico Madrid’s match against Bilbao, and the cancellation of the Spain-Croatia basketball match, which had been due to go ahead in Madrid on Saturday.

Forecasters said the heavy snow would continue until Sunday, before Storm Filomena begins moving northeast, although temperatures would remain exceptionally low.

Before the snowfall began Thursday morning, temperatures had already plummeted to an unofficial record low of -34.1 degrees Celsius (-29.38 Fahrenheit) at a ski station in the central Pyrenees on Wednesday.

Filomena has also brought intense rain and high winds to the Canary Islands as well as Spain’s southern coast.

 

AFP

Nearly 2,200 Migrants Died Trying To Reach Europe In 2020- NGO

 

 

Nearly 2,200 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea this year, the vast majority of them on their way to the Canary Islands, a migrant rights group said Tuesday.

Migrants arrivals in the archipelago have increased this year as they looked for alternative routes to reach Europe due to increased patrolling off the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain, posing a logistical strain for authorities in the Canaries.

A total of 2,170 migrants perished in attempts to get to Spain by boat this year, compared to 893 in 2019, according to a report by the non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras, which monitors migratory flows.

Eighty-five percent of this year’s deaths, or 1,851, took place during 45 shipwrecks on the route to the Canary Islands, according to the report.

The shortest route to the islands is more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous because of the strong currents in the Atlantic.

Helena Maleno, an activist with the NGO, blamed the rise in deaths this year on the greater distance needed to travel to the Canaries and the “dismantlement of rescue services”.

She also blamed a “lack of coordination” between the nations which operate rescue services in the region — Spain, Mauritania, Senegal and Morocco — which leads to delays in launching operations.

 

 

Spanish interior ministry figures show that between January 1 and November 30, a total of 19,566 people landed on the Atlantic archipelago, compared with just 1,993 a year earlier.

The surge in arrivals filled migrant reception centres on the Canaries, forcing thousands of migrants to live in a makeshift tent camp on a pier in the island of Gran Canaria last month.

They were eventually transferred to a military camp and hotels on the island.

Spain To Keep Record Of People Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the COVID-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

Spain will set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus and share it with other European Union member states, although it will not be made public, Health Minister Salvador Illa said Monday.

During an interview with La Sexta television, Illa reiterated that vaccination against the virus — which as in most EU nations began in Spain over the weekend — would not be mandatory.

“What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners… of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it,” he said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Nigeria Records 10 Deaths In One Day, 397 New Infections

“It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection,” he added, noting that employers or members of the general public would not have access to it.

The proportion of Spaniards unwilling to take a Covid-19 vaccine has plunged to 28 percent in December from 47 percent last month, according to a poll published last month.

The survey by the state-funded CIS research institute found 40.5 percent of respondents are willing to have the jab while 16.2 percent would do so if it is shown to be “reliable”.

Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the virus death toll passing the 50,000 mark on Monday, according to the health ministry.

Nearly 1.9 million people have been infected.

The government expects to have between 15 million and 20 million people out of its population of 47 million vaccinated against the virus by June.

“The way to defeat the virus is to vaccinate all of us or the more the better,” Illa said.

AFP

96-Year-Old Woman Receives Spain’s First COVID-19 Vaccine

In this handout image released by La Moncloa (Spanish Ministry of the Presidency) Araceli Hidalgo, 96, a resident of Los Olmos nursing home for the elderly, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on December 27, 2020, in Guadalajara, becoming the first person vaccinated against coronavirus in Spain. (Photo by Borja Puig de la BELLACASA / LA MONCLOA / AFP)

 

A 96-year-old living in a care home in central Spain became the first person in the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.

She felt “nothing” from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.

With her short white hair, the pensioner living in the Los Olmos retirement home in Guadalajara got up slowly after pulling on her black jacket and walked off using a frame for support.

Carer Monica Tapias followed as the second Spaniard to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“Araceli and Monica represent a new step full of hope today,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: EU Begins Vaccinations To End Pandemic

The Los Olmos home was picked to kick off the country’s inoculation campaign because it sits near a Pfizer storage depot, where vaccines were delivered from Belgium Saturday ahead of nationwide distribution.

No cases of Covid-19 have so far been detected among the staff or residents.

“It’s a great source of pride and a great satisfaction for us, we’re representing all the retirement homes in Spain,” director Marina Vadillo said Thursday.

After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Monday, the way is open for injections across the 27-member bloc.

Spain aims to vaccinate up to 20 million people by June, with an initial target of 2.5 million by the end of February.

People at elevated risk or very exposed like care home residents and medical staff will be first in line.

Under EU deals, the country is lined up to receive 140 million doses, enough to vaccinate 80 million people — almost twice the country’s population.

Extra doses will go to “nearby countries that might need them”, the health ministry said earlier this month.

One of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, Spain has recorded 1.8 million cases and almost 49,000 deaths.

Spain Receives First COVID-19 Vaccine Doses


ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Spain received its first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, a day before the country is set to begin its immunisation campaign.

A refrigerated truck arrived at Pfizer’s warehouse in Guadalajara in central Spain with the shipment, three days after it left the company’s factory in Puurs in northeast Belgium, the health ministry said in a statement.

After repackaging, the vaccines will be redistributed to Spain’s 17 autonomous regions so that vaccination can begin across the country as planned on Sunday, it added.

Spain will receive 4.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses over the next 12 weeks, enough to vaccinate some 2.3 million people, according to the ministry.

It plans to vaccinate elderly residents and staff in nursing homes first, then health workers and other vulnerable people such as the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

The government expects to have between 15 million and 20 million people out of its population of 47 million vaccinated against the virus by June.

Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with the virus infecting over 1.8 million people and causing nearly 50,000 deaths, according to health ministry figures.

-AFP

Spain To Begin COVID-19 Vaccinations On December 27

Health personnel collect saliva samples from pupils and teachers in a school in Madrid on December 17, 2020 for a study on coronavirus transmission between children and from children to adults. Spain has been one of the countries in Europe hardest hit by the virus, with an official toll of over 48,000 dead from 1.7 million cases.
OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Spain will start immunising people against the coronavirus on December 27, a day after it receives the first doses of a vaccine, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Friday.

The announcement comes a day after European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the EU would begin inoculations against Covid-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine between December 27 and 29, saying it was “Europe’s moment” in the battle against the virus.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to decide whether or not to approve the Pfizer vaccine on December 21 — a week earlier than initially expected.

“This is the beginning of the end of the pandemic, not the end, so we must continue to keep our guard up,” Illa told a news conference.

Spain plans to vaccinate elderly residents and staff in nursing homes first, then health workers and other vulnerable people such as the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

The government expects to have around 15-20 million people out of its population of 47 million vaccinated against the virus by June.

Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, with the virus infecting more than 1.7 million people and causing over 48,000 deaths.

-AFP

Rising COVID-19 Infections ‘Worrying,’ Says Spain PM


JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday called a recent rise in coronavirus infections “worrying”, warning that stricter measures to curb the spread could be needed for Christmas.

Spain was one of the first European nations to suffer a second spike in Covid-19 infections but restrictions such as nighttime curfews helped to halve the incidence level in November.

But the number of daily infections had risen to more than 10,000 on Tuesday from roughly 9,000 at the beginning of December, according to health ministry figures.

“In recent days we have observed a worrying rise in the number of cases,” Sanchez said during a debate in parliament.

The prime minister said he would not hesitate to instruct regional governments, which are responsible for health care, to toughen their Christmas plans.

The rules that have so far been introduced for the Christmas holidays include a cap on the size of indoor gatherings and restrictions on travel within Spain.

“It is up to us to not to open the door to a third wave,” Sanchez said.

“We can’t let our guard down.”

Spain has been one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, with the virus infecting more than 1.7 million people and causing over 48,000 deaths.

-AFP

Spanish King Self-Isolating After Virus Contact – Palace

In this file photo taken on February 3, 2020 Spain’s King Felipe VI arrives for the opening ceremony of the Spanish 14th legislature at the lower house of parliament in Madrid. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Spain’s King Felipe VI is self-isolating after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for Covid-19, the palace said Monday.

“A person with whom he was in contact yesterday tested positive for Covid-19 today,” the palace said in a statement, adding that the 52-year-old monarch had suspended all official activities for 10 days.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Working Closely With WHO To Access COVID-19 Vaccines, Says PTF

“In conformity with health rules, he will observe a preventative quarantine for 10 days starting now,” the statement said.

Queen Letizia and the royal couple’s daughters Leonor and Sofia “may continue their activities normally”, it added.

Crown Princess Leonor, 15, self-isolated for two weeks in September after a Covid-19 infection was detected among her classmates. She later tested negative.

Spain is among the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 1.5 million cases and more than 43,000 deaths.

AFP

Spain To Vaccinate Much Of Its Population By Mid-2021


SUMMA 112 (Medical Emergency Services of Madrid) sanitary technician Jose Antonio Perez disinfects equipment after attending to suspected coronavirus patients in Madrid on November 13, 2020.
OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Spain will have vaccinated a large part of its population of 47 million against the coronavirus by mid-2021, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Friday.

He said the government had put together “a comprehensive vaccination plan” that would be presented at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, making Spain the first within the European Union, alongside Germany, to fully map out such an immunisation scheme.

“We are ready,” Sanchez said, indicating the government had been working on the plan since September.

“Our forecasts, under almost any reasonable scenario, show that a very substantial part of the Spanish population will be able to be vaccinated, with all guarantees, within the first half of the year.”

The move, he said, would make Spain “the first country within the EU, along with Germany, to have a full vaccination plan.”

Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, suffering more than 1.5 million confirmed infections — the EU’s second-highest number of cases after France.

As of Thursday night, it had also lost 42,291 lives to the virus, ranking fourth within the bloc after the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

Last month, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government had authorised the purchase of 31.5 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine currently being developed by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

The supply of the vaccine is part of an EU scheme and it could start reaching Spain in December “if there are no delays,” he said at the time.

Major pharmaceutical companies are now closing in on vaccines against the virus which has infected more than 55 million people and caused more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to an AFP tally.

US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have taken the lead in the global chase for a vaccine alongside US firm Moderna, with the EU saying it was hoping to have both products approved for use by the year’s end.

The European Medicines Agency could give “conditional marketing authorisations … as early as the second half of December if all proceeds now without any problem,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

The EU has contracts to reserve hundreds of millions of doses of future vaccines with BioNTech, Purevac, AstraZeneca and Sanofi if they can be brought to market.

A candidate vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has also been shown to be safe and effective in a smaller study of older adults.

Earlier this week, Spain’s AEMPS medicines agency approved the country’s first phase three trial for a Covid-19 vaccine, one of nine nations to take part in the process.

-AFP

Spain’s 6-0 Win Inflicts Worst Defeat On Germany In 89 Years

The game was Germany’s worst defeat since 1931. Photo:[email protected]ón Española de Fútbol

 

Ferran Torres grabbed a hat-trick as Spain condemned Germany to their worst defeat in 89 years on Tuesday, winning 6-0 in Seville to qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals and join France, who came from behind to beat Sweden 4-2.

Manchester City forward Torres was the star for Spain, who were as brilliant as Germany were bad. The result raises further questions about Germany coach Joachim Loew, who was already under pressure coming into this game.

“This has been a black day for us,” admitted Loew after Germany’s heaviest defeat since losing 6-0 to Austria in 1931.

They came into their final game in League A, Group 4 on top, a point clear of Spain, and so only needed a draw at an empty La Cartuja to qualify for the finals in October next year.

But Alvaro Morata headed Spain in front in the 17th minute before Torres crashed in the second on 33 minutes after Dani Olmo’s header hit the bar.

His City team-mate Rodri headed in another to make it 3-0 for Spain before the end of a first half in which they lost Sergio Canales and skipper Sergio Ramos to injury, with the latter coming off feeling his hamstring.

Germany’s defence was posted missing as Jose Gaya burst through and squared for Torres to get the fourth on 55 minutes, and Fabian Ruiz teed up the 20-year-old Torres to complete his hat-trick.

Serge Gnabry hit the bar for Germany before substitute Mikel Oyarzabal completed the rout.

“It was one of the best and most complete matches of the Spanish national team,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

Germany now have several months to reflect on this loss before the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying in March and then the delayed Euro 2020 in June and July.

Spain, meanwhile, become the second side to qualify for the Nations League finals after France clinched their place by beating Portugal at the weekend.

– Portugal win with late goal –
The World Cup holders finished off their League A, Group 3 campaign by beating Sweden behind closed doors at the Stade de France as Olivier Giroud continued his remarkable scoring record for Les Bleus with a brace.

Viktor Claesson’s deflected early strike gave Sweden the lead, but Giroud soon equalised and Benjamin Pavard put France ahead before half-time.

Giroud then headed in Kylian Mbappe’s cross to make it 3-1 before the hour mark, and Kingsley Coman scored France’s final goal at the death after Robin Quaison had netted Sweden’s second.

Having recently overtaken Michel Platini’s tally of 41 goals for Les Bleus, Giroud is now on 44 and is closing in on Thierry Henry’s overall record mark of 51.

The 34-year-old remains a key player for France despite being on the periphery with his club Chelsea, for whom he has started just once this season, in the League Cup.

Sweden finish bottom of the group behind Croatia and are relegated to the second-tier League B for the next edition of the competition.

That is despite 10-man Croatia losing 3-2 at home to Portugal in Split, with Manchester City defender Ruben Dias getting a 90th-minute winner for the 2019 Nations League champions.

Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic had scored twice for Croatia, either side of Dias’s first of the night and a Joao Felix effort for Portugal, who featured Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the captain’s armband.

Marko Rog was sent off for Croatia.

The remaining two spots in the Nations League semi-finals will be decided on Wednesday, with Italy and Belgium currently in pole position.

Tuesday’s other scheduled Group 4 game between Switzerland and Ukraine in Lucerne was postponed after six Covid-19 cases in the Ukrainian squad led to their entire delegation being ordered into quarantine by Swiss health authorities.

Elsewhere, Montenegro’s 4-0 victory over Cyprus saw them top League C, Group 1 and win promotion to League B. Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands won promotion to League C.

AFP

European Space Rocket Launch Fails Minutes After Takeoff

ESA space rocket Photograph:( AFP

 

A European space rocket failed minutes after taking off with the loss of both satellites it was carrying, its operator said Tuesday.

The Vega light launcher, which would have placed Spain’s first satellite into orbit, malfunctioned roughly eight minutes after launching from a space centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

Having taken off at around 11 pm local time (0200 GMT) the launcher slowed before it encountered an unidentified “anomaly,” said Arianespace, the company overseeing the launch.

“The mission is lost,” CEO Stephane Israel said in a livestream to track the rocket.

It is unclear what caused the failure, but Arianespace said they were working to determine what went wrong.

Vega was supposed to place two satellites — both of which were lost during the mission — around 700 kilometres (435 miles) from Earth.

The mission would have launched Spain’s first Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency (ESA).

It would also have placed into orbit Taranis, a French satellite that would have observed extremely bright electrical phenomena in the planet’s upper atmosphere.

The launch’s failure is the second in as many years.

-AFP

Spain Economy Shows Rapid Improvement After Easing Of Lockdown

Attendees sit around a cauldron during a state ceremony to honour the 28,400 victims of the coronavirus crisis as well as those public servants who have been fighting on the front line against the pandemic in Spain, on July 16, 2020, at the Royal Palace in Madrid. Juanjo Martin / POOL / AFP

Juanjo Martin / POOL / AFP

 

The Spanish economy, the eurozone’s fourth-biggest, rebounded sharply in the third quarter as a lifting of the coronavirus lockdown saw activity resume, official data showed on Friday.

Spain’s gross domestic product expanded by 16.7 percent in the three months to September from the preceding quarter, but was still down 8.7 percent on a year-on-year basis, the national statistics institute INE calculated.

In the second quarter, draconian lockdown measures to try to stamp out the pandemic had led to an economic contraction of 17.8 percent.

Tourism, a major pillar of the Spanish economy, was among the hardest-hit sectors, with foreign visitor numbers down by as much as 75 percent during the summer.

INE cautioned that the preliminary third-quarter data could still be revised “more substantially than usual” given the difficulties in collating statistics at a time of deep economic disruption.

Looking at 2020 as a whole, the Spanish government is projecting an overall contraction in GDP of 11.2 percent, while the International Monetary Fund is expecting the Spanish economy to shrink by as much as 12.8 percent.

Economy Minister Nadia Calvino warned that “we are currently facing great uncertainty, both on a European and on a global level,” and many countries have imposed even tighter restrictions in recent days to rein in a second wave of virus infections.

-AFP