Spain Set To Legalise Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide

 

Spain’s parliament will give final approval to a law legalising euthanasia Thursday, becoming one of the few nations to allow terminally-ill or gravely-injured patients to end their own suffering.

The legislation, which will take effect in June, follows growing public pressure generated by several high-profile cases, including that of Ramon Sampedro whose plight was immortalised in the Oscar-winning 2004 film “The Sea Inside”.

Speaking to AFP, Ramona Maneiro, a friend of Sampedro’s who helped him die, hailed the move as a victory “for those who can benefit from it” and “for Ramon”.

At the time, she was arrested but released due to lack of evidence, only admitting her role years later when the statute of limitations expired.

The move will see Spain become the fourth country in Europe to decriminalise assisted suicide, alongside the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Although Portugal’s parliament passed a similar law in January, it was blocked this week by the Constitutional Court.

The Spanish legislation will permit euthanasia in which medical staff intentionally end a life to relieve suffering, and assisted suicide in which it is the patient who carries out the procedure.

Various other countries permit the second option, as well as so-called “passive euthanasia” in which life-saving medical treatment is halted.

– Strict conditions –

Backed by left-wing and centrist parties, the legislation will allow anyone with a “serious or incurable illness” or a condition which is “chronic or incapacitating” to request help dying, thereby avoiding “intolerable suffering”.

But it imposes strict criteria: the patient — a Spanish national or a legal resident — must be “fully aware and conscious” when they make the request, which must be submitted twice in writing, 15 days apart.

The request can be rejected if it is believed the requirements have not been met; it must be approved by a second medic and by an evaluation body.

Any healthcare professional could withdraw on grounds of “conscience” from taking part in the procedure that would be available through Spain’s national health service.

The move has been hailed by patients and right-to-die campaigners.

“It doesn’t make any sense that people… would choose to live an undignified life,” said Sofia Malagon, 60, who has Parkinson’s and worries what will happen if she gets dementia.

“I don’t want to be left like a vegetable,” she told AFP.

– ‘Form of murder’ –

But the move has been roundly rejected by the Catholic Church and Spain’s right-wing parties, with its promulgation also raising questions among some medical professionals.

Euthanasia “is always a form of murder since it involves one man causing the death of another,” said the Episcopal Conference, which groups Spain’s leading bishops and has accused the government of going from “defending life to being responsible for causing death”.

“Doctors don’t want anyone to die — it’s in their DNA,” said Manuela Garcia Romero, deputy head of the Medical College Organisation (OMC), expressing doubts over implementation of the law.

Since the mid-1980s when euthanasia entered the public debate, Spain has experienced several high-profile cases.

The most famous is that of Sampedro, who became a bedridden tetraplegic after breaking his neck and fought an unsuccessful 30-year court battle to end his own life with dignity.

He died in 1998 with the help of his friend Maneiro, his story immortalised in “The Sea Inside”, a film starring Hollywood actor Javier Bardem that won the 2005 best-foreign language Oscar.

Another case was that of Luis Montes, an anaesthetist accused of causing the deaths of 73 terminal patients at a Madrid hospital. A court dropped the case against him in 2007.

More recently, pensioner Angel Hernandez was arrested in 2019 and is awaiting trial for helping his wife end her life after decades suffering from multiple sclerosis.

-AFP

Spain Probes Death Of Patient After Astrazeneca Jab

In this file photo taken on March 12, 2021 shows empty vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the UBO (Universite Bretagne Occidentale) in Brest, western France.
The Netherlands suspends the use of AstraZeneca vaccine on March 14, 2021.
Fred TANNEAU / AFP

 

Spanish health officials said Wednesday they were investigating three cases of people who suffered from thrombosis after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of whom died.

The announcement by Spain’s AEMPS medicines agency came two days after the government suspended use of the vaccine for at least a fortnight as a precautionary measure.

The three cases occurred between late Monday and early Tuesday.

Local press reports said the person who died was a 43-year-old teacher with no pre-existing health conditions who died of a cerebral haemorrhage.

Neither health authorities nor the clinic where she was admitted would confirm details, citing data protection laws.

Monday’s decision to suspend all AstraZeneca shots came just hours after Germany, France and Italy announced similar moves linked to fears the vaccine could generate serious side effects such as blood clots which can cause swellings, heart attacks and haemorrhages.

In a statement, the AEMPS said the three cases might be linked to the “formation of blood clots in areas of the body where they are less common” without drawing firm conclusions.

Its investigators were “gathering more information and carrying out an exhaustive investigation to find out whether there was not only a causal link to the administration of the vaccine, but also a possible temporal link”.

Until the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended, 975,661 people in Spain had received a shot, official figures show.

Spain, which is also administering the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, has so far recorded more than 72,500 coronavirus deaths from more than 3.2 million cases.

For now, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said it is “firmly convinced” that benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh potential risks, insisting there was no evidence linking it to blood clots.

Its experts are nonetheless looking into “adverse events” associated with all vaccines, and the regulator is due to publish its conclusions on Thursday.

Spain Approves 11bn Euros Aid To Virus-Hit Firms

 

Spain’s cabinet approved Friday an 11 billion euro aid programme to help struggling small- and medium-sized firms, and self-employed workers, cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The package, which seeks to prevent bankruptcies, will include 7.0 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in direct aid, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino told a news conference.

“It is a question of taking the lead to prevent possible corporate solvency problems” which could “undermine” Spain’s economic recovery, she said after the measure was approved during an extraordinary cabinet meeting.

This will be the first direct state aid to companies since the start of the health crisis last year. Up until now, government support has taken the form of state-backed loans and a national furlough scheme.

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris. The Paris prosecutor’s office said on July 10, 2020, that it was investigating “massive fraud” across France by people falsely claiming temporary wage assistance for employees laid off during the coronavirus lockdown.
JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

The aid package also includes 3.0 billion euros to restructure companies’ debt and one billion euros for capital injections.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the aid package last month without giving details on how the funds would be distributed.

The tourism sector and other industries hard hit by the pandemic have for months asked the government for direct aid to help them cope with fixed costs such as rent and utility payments.

The influential head of Spanish banking giant Santander, Ana Botin, also appealed for direct state aid to struggling firms in January.

The government had until now rejected this option. Instead it unblocked 116 billion euros in credit lines since the start of the pandemic.

It has also spent 40 billion euros to provide furloughed workers with 70 percent of their basic salary and to help the self-employed, and transferred 24 billion euros to regional governments for spending on health and eduction.

Last year, Sanchez’s administration also set up a 10-billion-euro fund to bail out firms in “strategic sectors” that are considered viable but experiencing solvency problems.

“Today we have taken another step in the safety net which we have been deploying to protect our productive sector,” Sanchez said in a tweet after the cabinet meeting.

Spain’s economy contracted sharply by 11 percent in 2020, one of the worst performers in the eurozone, with its key tourism sector battered by the pandemic.

The number of registered jobless in Spain jumped by nearly 23 percent last year to around 3.9 million, according to labour ministry figures.

The country’s public debt stockpile stood at 1.3 trillion euros at the end of December, up 10 percent from December 2019 as public expenditure increased and income shrank.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, recording over 73,000 deaths from more than 3.1 million cases.

Barcelona Raise The Stakes In Madrid Derby After Osasuna Win

 

Barcelona cranked up the pressure on Sunday’s Madrid derby by beating Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday night to edge two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

Lionel Messi set up both goals in Pamplona as Jordi Alba hammered home in the first half before the 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba came off the bench to curl in an impressive shot late in the second.

“Thankfully Leo gave me the pass and I don’t know how I cut in and shot with my left foot, I’m just glad it went in,” Ilaix said. “I will never forget it, I will take that goal to my grave.”

Ilaix’s strike was his first goal in La Liga and another breakthrough moment for a Barca youngster, 24 hours before the club hopes a brighter future can begin under a new president.

Before the winner of the elections — contested by Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa — is confirmed on Sunday night, Atletico will face Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Barcelona will surely be hoping for anything other than a home win.

A few weeks ago, Ronald Koeman’s side looked too far adrift in the title race but 10 victories out of 11 have shot them back into contention, even if Atletico remain in the driving seat with two games in hand.

“Any result is good for us,” said Koeman.

After coming from two goals down to beat Sevilla after extra-time in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, Barcelona now have one trophy, and perhaps even a domestic double, in their sights.

Their success in recent months has owed much to a talented crop of youngsters, with Ilaix — a dynamic but technically gifted midfielder — the latest to emerge.

“Every time he comes into the team he gives the team something extra,” said Koeman. “Because of his personality, his energy, most of all he’s good with the ball, and physically he’s a strong boy. He’s gaining ground and showing he can be more with the first team.”

Barca faced some nervy moments early on as Jonathan Calleri tried an ambitious lob from distance before Ruben Garcia’s curler from the edge of the area required an athletic save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Messi shot wide and then set up the opener, drifting in from the right and spotting the scuttling Alba racing in behind on the opposite side. Messi clipped a pass through three Osasuna defenders for Alba to collect and he lashed it high and in from the angle.

Garcia deserved an equaliser soon after for his first touch alone, a sumptuous cushioning of a long ball forward, but Ter Stegen was again there to deny the finish.

There was more control about the second half but Barcelona needed a second to make it comfortable and substitute Ilaix seized his moment, shaping to shoot with his right before coolly rolling onto his left and whipping his shot into the corner.

While Barcelona sustained momentum from their midweek victory in the cup, Sevilla failed to bounce back, instead sinking to another loss away at Elche earlier on Saturday.

Raul Guti and Guido Carrillo sealed a crucial 2-1 win for Elche, with Luuk de Jong adding a late consolation for Sevilla, who have now lost three consecutive matches in eight days.

They sit six points ahead of Real Sociedad in fifth. Elche climb to 17th, two points above the bottom three.

Former Barcelona President Bartomeu Arrested

 

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested on Monday as part of a police investigation into last year’s BarcaGate scandal, a source with knowledge of the case told AFP.

Bartomeu, who resigned as president in October, was among several arrests made just six days ahead of the club’s new presidential elections on Sunday.

Barcelona’s current chief executive Oscar Grau, head of legal services Roma Gomez Ponti, and Bartomeu’s advisor Jaume Masferrer were also arrested by Catalan police, who searched the club’s offices on Monday morning.

Bartomeu, Masferrer, Grau, and Gomez Ponti “are being detained at the police station” as part of the operation, the same source told AFP.

Barcelona released a statement confirming the operation is linked to last year’s BarcaGate controversy when the club was accused of covering up payments made to a company called I3 Ventures, hired to boost the image of then-president Bartomeu on social media.

A Catalan police spokesman told AFP on Monday morning “arrests are taking place” and said the operation was run by officers from the financial crimes unit.

Part of the social media campaign included criticising current and former players, like Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, and Xavi Hernandez. Messi described the controversy as “strange” in an interview with Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Barca’s statement on Monday read: “Regarding the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices by order of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.”

Spanish radio station Cadena Ser claimed Barca paid I3 Ventures an inflated fee and put payments through in smaller, separate amounts to avoid the club’s financial controls.

Emili Rousaud, who resigned as Barcelona vice-president in March last year, said in an interview with RAC1 at the time: “If the auditors tell us the cost of these services is 100,000 euros and we have paid one million, it means someone has had their hand in the till.” The club took legal action against him.

Rousaud was among six Barca executives to leave their posts, with a joint letter citing the scandal as a key issue needing to be resolved.

‘Plugging gaps’

Bartomeu maintained the company had been hired only to monitor posts on social media and announced an internal audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which cleared the club of financial corruption in July.

“Let one thing be clear,” Bartomeu said. “To the question: Have we commissioned the monitoring of social networks? The answer is yes. “To the question: Have we commissioned to discredit people or institutions through social networks? The answer is no and we will take action against all those who accuse us of that.”

Yet Bartomeu resigned in October, avoiding a vote of no confidence triggered after more than 20,000 club members signed a petition against him.

His departure came in the same month Barcelona announced losses of 97 million euros ($114 million) for last season and debts that had more than doubled to 488 million euros.

As well as a series of political blunders, Bartomeu had also overseen a dramatic decline in performances on the pitch and a personal falling-out with Messi, who tried to leave for free last summer.

Messi accused the club of “always juggling everything and plugging gaps” under Bartomeu’s leadership.

Bartomeu’s successor is due to be elected on Sunday, when club members will choose between the final three candidates, Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font.

“In light of events that took place today, we express our respect for the police and the judiciary, and we defend the presumption of innocence. And we deeply regret that these events diminish the reputation of the club,” said Laporta.

“Too many people want to hurt Barca,” wrote Freixa on Twitter. “We will not allow it.”

Spain Extends Ban On Arrivals From UK, Brazil, South Africa

Map of Spain

 

Spain on Tuesday extended its ban on arrivals from Britain, Brazil and South Africa until March 16 to safeguard against the spread of new coronavirus strains from these countries. 

Only legal residents or nationals of Spain and the neighbouring micro-state of Andorra are currently allowed in on flights from these countries.

The restriction on arrivals from Britain was imposed at the end of December to halt the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19 variant discovered there in November.

The ban on arrivals from Brazil and South Africa came into effect on February 3.

The only exception are passengers in transit who cannot leave the airport nor remain there longer than 24 hours.

It is the fifth time the ban on British arrivals has been extended.

Last week, Spain also imposed an obligatory 10-day quarantine period on those arriving from South Africa or Brazil — or seven days in the case of those able to show a negative test.

Other European nations have also imposed curbs on arrivals from the three nations due to fears that the new variants may spread more easily or contain mutations that allow the virus to evade the effects of vaccines.

So far, Spain has confirmed around 900 cases of the so-called British variant, health ministry figures show.

But the true figure could well be far higher. Health officials have previously warned the British variant could become the dominant strain in Spain by early March.

They have also confirmed six cases of the South African variant and one of the Brazilian strain.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, recording around 68,000 deaths from more than 3.1 million cases.

Spanish Police Arrest Rapper Holed Up In University

Catalan regional police Mossos D’esquadra remove people who were hindering the arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel at the University of Lleida, 150 kms (90 miles) west of Barcelona, on February 16, 2021. (Photo by J. Martin / AFP)

 

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested a rapper who barricaded himself inside a university after he was controversially sentenced to nine months in jail over a string of tweets, television images showed.

Pablo Hasel, 32, had been given until last Friday night to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence after being convicted for glorifying terrorism, slander and libel against the crown and state institutions.

At issue was a series of tweets attacking the monarchy and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants, with his case sparking protests in Madrid and Barcelona.

But Hasel, who is known for his radical leftist views and whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla, on Monday barricaded himself inside the University of Lleida, in the northeastern Catalonia region, with dozens of supporters to avoid arrest.

Spanish television showed images of police escorting him out of the university on Tuesday.

“They will never make us give in, despite the repression,” Hasel said, his fist raised as he descended a staircase, wearing track pants and a sweatshirt and carrying a duffel bag.

A Catalan police spokesman told AFP that officers entered the university early Tuesday “to enforce the judicial ruling” on his arrest.

Police in protective gear removed chairs, garbage bins and other objects that had been set up as barricades to reach the spot where the singer was barricaded with his supporters.

Hundreds of artists have signed a petition demanding Hasel’s release, including film director Pedro Almodovar, Hollywood actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.

Hasel said on Twitter Monday: “I’m locked inside the University of Lleida with quite a few supporters so they’ll have to break in if they want to arrest me and put me in prison.”

 

Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel is arrested by police at the University of Lleida, 150 kms (90 miles) west of Barcelona, on February 16, 2021 where he had barricaded himself.  (Photo by J. Martin / AFP)

Last week, Spain’s government pledged to reduce the penalty for “crimes of expression” such as the glorification of terrorism, hate speech, insults to the crown and offences against religious sensibilities in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual activities.

But in an interview with AFP last week, Hesel said he had no intention of turning himself in, accusing the government of making empty pledges.

“I refuse to go of my own accord and knock on the prison door,” he said.

“So they’ll just have to come and kidnap me, which will show up the state for what it really is: a phoney democracy.”

Far-left party Podemos, the junior partners in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, criticised Hesel’s arrest, saying all those  who “consider themselves progressives should feel shame”.

“Are their eyes covered? There is no progress if we refuse to recognise our existing democratic shortcomings,” the party added in a tweet.

The case echoes that of another rapper called Valtonyc who fled to Belgium in 2018 after being convicted of similar crimes.

Spain is trying to have him extradited but Belgium has refused on the grounds that his offences are not a crime under Belgian law.

Spain Surpasses Three Million COVID-19 Cases – Health Ministry

Residents queue to undergo antigen rapid tests for coronavirus during a mass screening to test 100 percent of the town’s population in Leon, northern Spain, on February 3, 2021. AFP

 

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain, one of Europe’s hardest-hit nations, has topped three million since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said Tuesday. 

Spain recorded another 16,402 cases in the last 24 hours, taking its overall figure to 3,005,487. Seroprevalence studies, which test for antibodies using a blood serum sample, suggest the real figure is far higher.

Over the same 24-hour period, Spain also saw another 766 deaths, bringing the overall toll to 63,061 in the nation of some 47 million people.

Spain became the first European country to record a million coronavirus infections on October 21, and reached the two million mark on January 7.

Infections then increased by another million in just over a month.

But in mid-December, a seroprevalence study suggested around 4.7 million people had been infected by the virus — some 10 percent of Spain’s population.

Spain saw a surge in infections at the start of the year, with health officials blaming an easing of restrictions over the Christmas holidays.

Since then, the incident rate has started to come down as regional governments, which are in charge of health care, have cracked down.

So far, Spain has not seen a major surge in new variants but has imposed a ban on arrivals by air from Britain, Brazil and South Africa which on Tuesday was renewed until March 2.

The fear is these variants could spread more rapidly or contain mutations allowing the virus to bypass vaccines.

On Friday, Spain confirmed its first case of the Brazilian variant. It has so far confirmed several cases of the South African variant and around 480 cases of the variant discovered in Britain in November.

Officials believe the British variant could become the dominant strain in Spain by March.

Spain has so far vaccinated just over two million people since it began its immunisation campaign at the end of December.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government has vowed to have covered 70 percent of Spain’s population by the summer’s end, a goal reaffirmed by the government despite shortages and delays in vaccine supplies.

-AFP

 

Spain Confirms First Case Of Brazil COVID-19 Variant

COVID-19 antigen rapid test devices are pictured during a mass screening to test 100 percent of the town’s population in Leon, northern Spain, on February 3, 2021.
CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

Madrid authorities on Friday confirmed the first case in the region of the Brazilian variant of coronavirus, which is feared to be particularly infectious, in the region.

A 44-year-old man who arrived at Madrid’s airport on January 29 tested positive for the coronavirus and subsequent lab tests confirmed he had caught the new strain, the regional government of Madrid said in a statement.

The case is the first report in Spain of the variant, blamed for a disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus.

The announcement came three days after Spain restricted arrivals by air from Brazil and South Africa to curb the spread of new strains.

Madrid has since the end of December also restricted arrivals from Britain because of the discovery of a new virus strain there last year.

Health authorities are concerned that new strains of the virus may spread more easily or could contain mutations which allow the virus to evade the effects of vaccines.

At least two cases of the South African variant have so far been detected in Spain and around 450 cases of the British variant.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, recording over 61,000 deaths from nearly three million cases so far.

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