25th November 2020
Police carrying out checks in El Perello
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Valencia in English – weekly round-up (9 Aug)

Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (14 August)

Coronavirus on the rise as police crack down on social gatherings

During the week there has been a constant increase in active cases of Coronavirus, meanwhile the police presence, particularly in coastal towns, has also increased considerably.

The week began with 523 new cases announced on Monday, which included figures from last weekend. The largest number of outbreaks (49.2%) were from gatherings of friends and families, while leisure spaces accounted for 17.6%, work related outbreaks 15%, and 12% at care homes. Half of all outbreaks since the end of the state of alarm and the start of the ‘new normality’ have come from the 15-34 age group.

Five new outbreaks were announced in Valencia of which four were related to socialising and one to work. There were other outbreaks related to socialising in Tavernes Blanques, Torrent, Mislata, Gandia and Meliana.  There were two work-related outbreaks in Burjassot and Valencia, plus an outbreak in Orihuela related to leisure and an ‘imported outbreak’ in Almoradi.

It was also announced that two of the immigrants that had arrived on the Alicante coast at the weekend had tested positive for Coronavirus and were being isolated in Alicante’s General Hospital.

The Valencian government health minister, Ana Barceló reiterated: ‘We must continue using face masks always. We must do it for ourselves and for those we care for most.’

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain figures (7 August)

Tuesday saw a further 135 new cases in the previous 24 hours with new outbreaks related to socialising in Bétera, Requena and Sant Joan d’Alacant, and one outbreak in Valencia related to leisure.

On Wednesday there were 288 new cases and 11 new outbreaks, all related to socialising. Seven were in Valencia, one in Alicante, one in Elche, one in Burjassot and one in Tavernes Blanques.

Thursday saw 177 further cases in the previous 24 hours with four new outbreaks related to socialising in Valencia, two in Burjassot, one in Castalla, and one in Manises. Four outbreaks were related to leisure, in Castellón la Plana, Valencia, Benidorm and Villajoyosa, while there were two work-related outbreaks in Valencia and one in Mislata.

Barceló announced that visits to residences would be limited in areas with high rates of infection. She also called on town councils to help, especially with making sure that family gatherings and popular events in the towns were not overcrowded and that proper precautions were being followed, especially among social groups or peñas who might still be meeting up, even though their own specific fiestas are not happening.

Barceló said that in July, 37.7% of the positive cases were asymptomatic, which ‘shows that the tracking and tracing of contacts as with the follow-up of outbreaks, is already bearing fruit’.

She also said that the 20-29 age group had registered a greater number of positive cases, which also meant the cases recorded were not so serious, given that young people tend to have less serious symptoms, although there are exceptions.

6.1% of those infected in the 20-29 age group have ended up in hospital and 0.37% have had to be moved to intensive care. However, the largest group of hospitalisations continue to be those aged over 70. Which is why Barceló said, ‘I appeal for caution and prudence, especially among the young section of the population, as it is precisely this group who have become the main transmission of new cases.’

Friday brought a further 344 new cases which, distributed by province, were 18 in Castellón, 82 in Alicante and 240 in Valencia, plus four unattributed. There was a total of nine new outbreaks, with three in Valencia, one in Denia, one in Algemesi, one in Elda, two in Burjassot and one in San Antonio de Benagéber. They were all related to socialising, except one of the Valencia outbreaks which was work-related.

Click here for all previous reports on: Coronavirus in Spain

Wastewater early-warning

There was some good news for Valencia’s mayor, Joan Ribó on Friday as wastewater studies show the percentage of Coronavirus in the city is stabilising, even decreasing after a peak around 20 July. However, that’s to be expected as many Valencians go to their second homes in August.

A popular destination is El Perellonet, just 20 minutes south of the city (where I coincidentally find myself this month) which has seen a significant increase in coronavirus in its wastewater.

As we reported back on 31 May, the analysis of sewage water is an early-warning mechanism and shows where potential outbreaks will be a week or two before they are reported.

In El Perellonet we have so far heard of a few cases of Coronavirus, but as each community applies the rules to the extent they see fit, the differences between one urbanización and another are quite alarming.

While some have their pool areas divided into segments, hand sanitisers available on entry, spray to disinfect chairs and sun loungers, notices about the compulsory use of face masks as well as bans on visitors from outside using the facilities, others (like where I’m staying) have absolutely nothing.

Police presence

The police are doing what they can but their authority ends at the doors of the urbanizaciones.

They have no power to enter without permission from a judge. So once inside their communal gardens, people are free to mix and mingle as they wish, with each community depending on their own sense of responsibility.

Police carrying out checks in El Perello
Local police carrying out checks on the nightlife in El Perello in the early hours of 9 August 2020. (Catherine Dolan)

Last weekend there was a crackdown across the region to ensure safety rules were being observed with 190 venues being inspected and 28 fines issued to people not using masks – and legal proceedings were started against nine businesses.

Between Friday and Sunday the Valencian police gave 1,385 warnings related to face mask use and social distancing.

This weekend followed the same pattern with a heavy police presence, especially in coastal towns to avoid people gathering in large groups and having botellones (alcoholic gatherings in public places).

How to get through to youngsters

Twenty-somethings are now one of the main groups of new Coronavirus infections, but still Valencian president Ximo Puig resists closing pubs and clubs.

One might say he is stuck between a rock and a hard place, as closing down the nightlife would be the final nail in the coffin for an already disastrous summer season. And would shutting bars and discos actually help? Or would young people get together anyway? Short of imposing a curfew on 15-34 year olds, what else can the Valencian government do to make them comply with Coronavirus rules?

Many walk around in large groups, a couple may be wearing face masks, another with it below the chin, some wearing them as bracelets, but occasionally I see a group of youngsters abiding by the rules.

Just this week I saw one such group of four in our urbanización playing cards on the communal terrace, all wearing face masks. I wanted to rush over and congratulate them!

Benidorm’s millionth visitor

Benidorm has celebrated their millionth visitor to the beaches since they re-opened on 15 June under the ‘Benidorm Beach Safety’ iniciative.

Mayor of Benidorm Toni Pérez
Mayor of Benidorm Toni Pérez (right), and the councillor for beaches, Mónica Gómez, with the beach’s millionth visitor since the re-opening on 15 June. (Benidorm.org)

The tourist, from Álava was greeted by the mayor, Toni Pérez, and councillor for beaches, Mónica Gómez, who both reiterated their ‘thanks to all the people who have chosen Benidorm for their holidays, activating our main industry which, along with the local council, has made a huge effort and been very self-demanding at adapting and applying the health protocols to make Benidorm an even safer destination’.

Plots on Benidorm’s Levante beach can be booked through the website: www.benidormbeachsafety.es

Covid-19 safety recognition badge

Businesses which have gone the extra mile to make their environment Covid-19 safe will now carry a new badge to show they are ‘Prepared against Covid’.

The new standard is a joint project by the health and tourist ministries in Madrid, who produced handbooks and protocols for Advanced Good Practices aimed at reducing the risk of infection by Coronavirus in the tourist sector.

The 'Prepared against Covid' badge
The ‘Prepared against Covid’ badge

43 businesses in Benidorm have been recognised for their efforts against Covid-19, including 10 hotels, three campsites, three travel agencies and three coach companies.

The main objective of the project is to increase confidence and safety both among the residents and the national and international visitors who come here.

Benidorm mayor Toni Pérez said that the certificates awarded to 22 establishments in his city ‘show the patent effort in Benidorm which, in the worst of circumstances, continues to be committed to quality’ as well as managing and minimising risks, offering the maximum safety to employees, tourists and residents.

You can find out which businesses have the badge in your area by clicking here

Costa Blanca looks for visitors who can come by car

Following the quarantine put in place by the UK and other EU countries for travellers returning from Spain, the Costa Blanca has launched a new campaign to encourage more visitors from Spain and Portugal.

Under the title Necesitas Costa Blanca, the campaign will be rolled out on TV, radio, press and social media and will hopefully recuperate something of the season in August and September.

Costa Blanca tourism presentation.
Costa Blanca tourism presentation.

The aims are to reactivate the flow of visitors to the province, accelerate the recuperation of the sector, promote the area as a safe destination and encourage out of season visitors.

Tourist department to foot the bill for longer stays due to Covid-19 infections

The region’s tourist department has approved a plan to provide free accommodation for any tourists who find themselves having to extend their stay in the Valencia region due to suspected or confirmed Coronavirus infections. See our report from 26 July explaining the proposal.

Regional tourism minister Francesc Colomer, said, ‘This initiative aims to incorporate a new added value linked to the safety of the tourist, in the face of any symptoms or suspect case of Covid-19, offering accommodation with all the guarantees and without any additional costs’.

Castellón dentists advise on dental hygiene and Covid-19

CODECS (Colegio Oficial de Dentistas Castellón) have given some tips on how to minimise the risk of cross contamination of Coronavirus.

The tips include: don’t share toothbrushes, keep them in a vertical position and in a separate glass for each family member, avoid using a protective cover unless it has holes to ‘breathe’, wash hands well before touching toothbrushes, clean bathroom surfaces and keep toothbrushes as far away from the toilet as possible.

The dentists added: ‘These are tips for hygiene and cleanliness, a key tool in our oral health, as is brushing teeth daily, something which should be maintained throughout the year, but especially during these months when Covid-19 is altering many routines.’

Wear a face mask campaign
Wear a face mask campaign

The responsibility is everyone’s

When the borders were opened and visitors from the UK and other countries were able to start coming back to Spain for their holidays, I must admit I was sceptical. I imagined the hospitals along the Valencia coast filling up with tourists suffering from Covid-19. This hasn’t happened, yet, and I hope it won’t.

What I am seeing though, is that the main areas welcoming foreign tourists, like Benidorm, are going above and beyond with hygiene measures and keeping their infection numbers down. Where people are being most relaxed, however, are the traditional Spanish holiday destinations. Apart from the face masks it seems to be business as usual.

The Spanish are a sociable bunch – they hug, they kiss – and for them a summer without going out isn’t a summer. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help bring down infection numbers during a global pandemic. The result being the blanket ban quarantine measures imposed on the whole country.

The irony is that the areas that have worked hardest in Covid-prevention are those that are being punished most with the imposition of quarantines that are killing their businesses. Only if we all take responsibility will we beat this invisible enemy.

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