Face masks, outbreaks, ‘New Normality’
Temperatures have been rising this week and while wandering around in the heat wearing a face mask, you may – like me – have felt a little breathless, hot and perhaps even panicky.
I read recently the important thing is to stay calm and breathe normally. Easier said than done at 30+ degrees. But, according to the Valencian health department, there have been no Coronavirus-related deaths for three consecutive days. Cases are under control, contacts are being traced and a few outbreaks are to be expected in the ‘New Normality’. As of Friday, there were 283 active cases in the Valencia region but no areas have yet been put into lockdown again.
On Monday there was news of an employee at the Consellería de Justicia (the Valencian justice department) registering positive after previously being with a family member from Lleida, who had been showing Covid-19 symptoms. The floor of the building where they worked was disinfected and four civil servants were put in quarantine for 10 days.
On Tuesday there was an outbreak of 10 positive cases in Burjassot, six of which were linked to a birthday celebration. The other four cases were unrelated.
On Wednesday the spotlight moved to Cullera, where three cases were reported – but the town council was quick to call for calm. The authorities said there was no outbreak as the three cases were refugees who had been in contact with people infected with Covid-19 before their arrival. They said they were already in isolation and hadn’t been in contact with residents of Cullera.
Lliria also reported three cases in a single family unit which is now self-isolating. The outbreak in Castellón increased to 35 cases and the Rafelbuñol outbreak remains at six.
The latest was a family outbreak in Foios with seven positive results on Friday.
Speaking on Thursday, Valencian president Ximo Puig was upbeat. ‘We are an autonomous region of 5 million inhabitants,’ he said. ‘At the moment there are four people in intensive care and 55 people in hospital. The situation has improved but we must keep on taking maximum precaution and be responsible.’
He said that the region was prepared. ‘We have guaranteed sanitary material thanks to the imports from China and local production in Valencia … The material stored is enough to face another six months of pandemia.’
On Friday evening a funeral mass was held in memory of Coronavirus victims at the Co-Cathedral of San Nicolás in Alicante and was attended by the Valencian health minister, Ana Barceló.
Meanwhile, the department for Equality and Inclusive Policies, headed by Mónica Oltra, has begun looking into the situation of care homes during the Covid-19 crisis, and in particular a residential home in Alcoy, run by the company DomusVi which was one of the residences worst hit by Coronavirus.
The centre has space for 140 elderly people and the disease affected 70% of its residents, with 73 losing their lives. Oltra is considering putting the running of the residence back into the public domain before its contract runs out.
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No-kill dog home for Denia
Animal rights campaigners in Denia are celebrating this week after the town council allocated nearly €300,000 to the Denia Animal Protection Association (APAD), which campaigns against putting animals to sleep.
At a meeting held on Thursday the council decided to award the contract of four years, extendable by one year, to APAD.
The association will be responsible for collecting, transporting, caring for animals as well as removing dead animals and finding homes for abandoned or stray creatures.
To carry out the work they will receive €285,924.
Councillor Javier Scotto tweeted on Thursday: ‘The contract is a declaration of intentions, now Denia will go from having a dog pound to having an integrated centre to care for animals where, very importantly, sacrificio cero (no putting down of animals) will be introduced.’
So far the Coronavirus crisis has cost the Spanish tourist industry around €30 billion according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). In an attempt to salvage something from the 2020 summer season, the Costa Blanca tourist board has launched a campaign focusing on the quality of the product and marketing itself as a safe holiday destination.
The new campaign on social media shows the touristic wealth of the province and the norms and protocols which have been introduced to guarantee safety in the destination. There are 11 videos of one minute each about how tourism is coming back to life under the new hygiene guidelines, as well as the rules of behaviour expected from visitors to this safe destination.
The first two videos released include the re-opening of beaches with tips for visitors, re-opening of natural parks and unique inland locations. There are also videos about accommodation, golf courses, water sports, sport and active tourism, cultural spaces, wine tourism, family tourism and schools and academies open for learning Spanish.
‘It’s essential to consolidate our province under the claim of safe tourism,’ said José Mancebo, director of the Costa Blanca Tourist Board. ‘The aim of this initiative is to help in the process of recovering demand in the tourism industry and to spread the message that the Costa Blanca is a safe destination,’ he added.
Nuestros centros de buceos y empresas náuticas están preparados para recibirte 🐠⛵ Destino perfecto para los amantes del mar, la vela y los deportes acuáticos 💚 #CostaBlanca #DestinoSeguro pic.twitter.com/O93r0BNlV5
— Turismo Costa Blanca (@costablancaorg) July 10, 2020
Meanwhile Benidorm has been reinforcing hygiene and safety measures both on the technical and human front with more staff and more machines.
The city of skyscrapers is synonymous with huge crowds of holidaymakers, the majority of them British, packed together in close proximity on pub crawls or in sweaty discos. As such Benidorm needs to emphasise, more than anywhere, the safety of those choosing the city for their holiday.
More staff have been taken on to help with the task, public spaces are being cleaned and disinfected more frequently and rubbish bins emptied more regularly.
This comes on top of the recently introduced ‘nebulizer’ water canon which can clean and disinfect streets and public spaces quickly and efficiently.
City buses have been given their AENOR certification, showing that they comply with all the necessary Covid-19 norms: protective screens for workers, hand sanitiser for passengers and obligatory use of face masks as well as maintaining high standards of cleanliness.
The Benidorm Summer Nights festival has got under way, but with smaller crowds and social distancing.
On Thursday night popular Spanish rock group, M-Clan, famous for their Spanish version of Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, played at the Auditorio Julio Iglesias.
On Wednesday, as over 65s registered in Benidorm were being given their free face masks, mayor Toni Pérez reiterated the importance of their use. ‘Prevention continues to be the most effective way to beat Covid-19,’ he said, ‘which is why there is the legal obligation to use a face mask wherever a physical distance of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained.’
Valencia’s exhibition centre, Feria Valencia, has opened its doors for the first time in four months. Friday saw the first day of two events: Feria del Vehículo Selección Ocasión, a used car show for members of the public, and the children’s fashion industry show Día Mágico by FIMI – a showcase of clothes for communions and other smart events.
Feria Valencia is the first of the large exhibition centres to re-open in Spain and did so amid strict safety measures.
On arrival visitors have their temperature taken twice, there is social distancing in the entrance queue, plastic screens at information points and digital tickets to avoid the use of paper. Hydroalcoholic gel is available at numerous points throughout the centre, as well as on individual stands. The use of face masks is now obligatory and a one-way system is in use to avoid paths crossing.
In many countries, like France and the UK, the national exams which give students access to university, have been cancelled, but not in Spain. Those in their last year of school (2º Bachillerato) haven’t escaped the three stressful days of the EBAU (Evaluación del Bachillerato para el Acceso a la Universidad) exams, which took place this week – also known as the ‘selectividad’. Anyone who has children or relatives of this age will know only too well how stressful it has been.
And while the examiners have generally ‘behaved well’ and not set particularly difficult tests, students are certainly not on a fair playing field.
For those lucky enough to have had a full online schedule during lockdown, they will have most likely finished the curriculum and have spent the past few months preparing for the exams.
Meanwhile those who didn’t have the opportunity of online classes won’t have finished the syllabus and will have been on their own preparing for the EBAU. And on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, both groups of students faced the same exams. How is that fair? Yet another way in which Covid-19 does not affect everybody equally.
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