Sunday, February 28, 2021

Get a grip Spain!

 This report from El Pais paints a less than encouraging picture of the vaccine rollout in Spain. 

Organizational problems are hampering Spain’s Covid-19 vaccination drive. While the country at one point was administering nearly all of the vaccines that were delivered, this is no longer the case. As more doses have arrived and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been integrated into the program, the difference between the number of jabs received and those administered has grown. Healthcare representatives say this is largely due to organizational problems. While the first phase of the vaccination drive targeted staff and residents in care homes, as well as frontline health workers, who are easy to locate and bring together, the next stage has been extended to essential workers under the age of 55 and people 80 years and over, which is presenting logistical challenges.

Although the regions – which are responsible for handling the response to the pandemic and the Covid vaccination drive – have launched this next phase at different speeds, the overall trend is clear. On February 2, Spain had administered 94% of all Covid doses it had received. This figure fell to 90% on February 9 and to 87% on February 23. Last week, it dropped again to 75%. The figures from last week are the most recent as Spain has not yet had time to administer the last shipment of Covid vaccines: 886,880 new doses, the largest delivery to date. It won’t be known until next Tuesday whether Spain’s vaccination drive is slowing down or picking up after starting the inoculation of the next priority groups.

The difference between the number of doses delivered and those administered is greatest with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved after the candidates from Pfizer and Moderna. The Spanish Health Ministry decided to only use the AstraZeneca vaccine on people between the ages of 18 and 55, due to the lack of clinical evidence of its effectiveness in older demographics. This meant it needed to push forward a new priority group: essential workers, such as teachers, law-enforcement officers and firefighters, under the age of 55. On February 23 (the last day with comparable data), Spain had administered 95.5% of the doses from Pfizer, 70.8% from Moderna and just 33.7% from AstraZeneca.

On Thursday, Madrid began vaccinating essential workers in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium and people 80 years and over in healthcare centres. But the process has been mired in confusion, with nursing and doctors unions complaining of “improvisation and chaos.” These unions say the region sent out an out-of-date list of patients to be vaccinated, which included the names of the deceased. The Health Minister also says that the region continues to use syringes that cannot extract the sixth dose contained in each vial of the vaccine, meaning doses are continuing to go to waste.

Of course, the rollout in the UK will slow down as those that had the first shot of vaccine pass the 12 week point and require a second dose. In other words, the available vaccines will be required to provide full protection rather than inoculate more and more people.  Over 19 million have had the first dose but only 760,000 the second dose. The seven-day average for first doses is about 348,000 doses a day.

The Spanish Government currently estimates that they will be able to supply as many as 8.1 million doses per month during the spring. Let's hope they are right and perhaps more important, they get the doses available into people's arms. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Changes to the rules

From the 1st March.

  •  Outdoor meetings are increased to allow up to four people.
  • The municipal perimeter closure is eliminated on weekends in the 16 most populated cities in the Valencian Community, such as Orihuela and Torrevieja.
  • The hotel business is open until 6pm but only on the terraces and with a maximum of four people to a table and with a capacity of 75%
  • The opening hours of shops are extended until 8:00 p.m. and with a capacity of 50%.
  • Sports activities are reactivated as long as they are in open spaces, always without physical contact, in pairs or with a maximum of four people per monitor. The mask is not mandatory
  • The parks and gardens are opened and the capacity in places of worship and religious increases up to 50%.
  • Night mobility restrictions are maintained from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The regional perimeter closure is extended to enter and leave the Valencian Community.

Advice from Her Majesty

Articles in the Daily Mail and Express tell us that the Queen has suggested that people should think of others rather than themselves when offered a Covid 19 jab. 

Both these papers excel in whipping up opinion. They bait their readers with inflammatory stories that they know will spark fury. In this case, they know that there are many anti royalists amongst those that read their papers who will react. The fact I can find no similar articles in papers like the Guardian, the Independant, the Telegraph etc. speaks volumes.

The following are comments from their readers: 

 The most over privileged self indulgent robbed us blind her entire life woman on this earth telling US to think of others lmfao - now you know for CERTAIN this 'jab' is anything but safe. All you people who thought this old person was just a hand waving money grabber know different now...she's up to her neck in control and always has been.

Propagandist mouthpiece to push the gullible serfs into being experimental lab rats.

You know how desperate they are when they wheel out the Queen to sell a lie! Seriously how could our government coerce/sell us something that has never been trailed* and if it injures or kills you nobody is liable? .....* I think he means trialled. 

The Mail claims that around 15 per cent of the population will not take up the offer of a jab, with scepticism highest among the young and minority ethnic groups. Those that read this could well come to the conclusion that there is an issue here and may decide to refuse the vaccine without any evidence to back up their choice. They may even chose to refuse the vaccine simply because the Queen suggests you should take it. 

On another note, I read that in Germany, people are refusing the Astra Zeneca vaccine because they believe others like the Pfizer one is more efficient especially in older age groups. A survey in Israel of people which includes elders who have received the Astra Zeneca jab completely disproves this. 

The truth is that some newspapers and broadcasters who claim to reflect opinion are in fact shaping it with their carefully crafted articles. Neither the Mail nor the Express criticise the Queen for her remarks, they leave that up to their readers. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A waiting game

 Pedro Sánchez, has renewed the promise that, by the end of summer, 70% of the Spanish population, or about 33 million citizens, will be immunized against Covid 19.. The president acknowledged that the current rate of inoculation of 540,000 doses a week is not adequate, because in fact, with the current vaccination speed, Spain would need 174 weeks, more than three years, to be able to immunize its entire population.

The main problem has been supply. Spain expects  to "quadruple" the arrival of doses during the second quarter of this year. They are even planning to open mass immunisation centres e.g. the IFA conference centre near to Alicante Elche Airport to vaccinate the larger numbers of people. So far and after almost two months of the inoculation campaign, they have only managed to deliver 3,622,165 jabs to the communities, which have only served to immunize just over 1.2 million people with the full protocol of two doses. 

It isn't as if there were not enough ordered as this diagram explains.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Not again!

My car needs a wash but i'll leave it for now!


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A shot in the arm

As Britain looks to be hitting its target of 15 million people receiving their first dose of a Covid vaccine, we ask, "when will we be vaccinated here in Spain?".

Spain’s Health Ministry and regional governments are working out the details of the next stage of the coronavirus vaccination campaign. Following the first phase that included care home residents, healthcare workers and people with severe disabilities who are not in care facilities, next in line to get their shots are the 70-and-older group.

There are nearly four million people in the 70-79 age group. Vaccination of these will begin as the vaccination of the over-80s advances, when there are enough doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for both groups, given the AstraZeneca vaccine is restricted to over-55s.

If the current pace of delivery keeps up, this new phase could begin in March, although the start date may be pushed forward or back depending on the speed of shipment deliveries and whether new vaccines get approved, said sources familiar with the situation.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

New work in Bigastro

The councillor for Urbanism of the Bigastro City Council, Antonio Meseguer, has presented the start of works in different streets of the old town, which will mean a significant change in the image of this area, with an investment of more than 600,000 euros.

The works will be carried out on Calle Mayor, Calle Goya, Calle Maestro Grau, Calle San Joaquín and Plaza Ramón y Cajal.

The mayor explained that the first phase has just begun, which consists of remodelling the entire drinking water network, with a change in both the network and all the water connections that are more than 50 years old using materials such as lead . "These were the first networks that supplied the municipality with drinking water," said the mayor, who has stated that 160,000 euros have been budgeted for this work that is already underway.

The second phase of this project, with more than 450,000 euros of investment, will begin next week and has an execution period of three months.  This involves a complete renovation and improvement of the  the  town's pavements .  The improvement to safety, accessibility and above all a semi-pedestrianization, further restricting the passage of vehicles will give greater prominence to the pedestrian.

There will be a new led lighting and a new pavement designed exclusively for Bigastro by Terrazos San Joaquín who have more than 50 years of experience in the manufacturing sector.  The personalized pavement bears two great hallmarks for the municipality, its embossed shield and three orange leaves, which  symbolize agriculture,  the profile of the Bigastro hill, and a third leaf that joins the field and the orchard. 

As for the characteristics of the new paving. According to Meseguer, it is more resistant, durable and less slippery in the rain, "a pavement with more quality and better aesthetics that is the objective of this council."

More Brexit woes

 Remember I complained on the 23rd January about the issues I was having problems buying art materials from England. 

Actually, the parcel of brushes from Rosemary & Co did arrive a few days later and was handed over to me without any mention of VAT or other fees. That was probably because it came by post and not by courier.

Now I need some tubes of oil colour to replace those that are running out. So I went to Jackson's site and there was a message to say that all orders to the EU by courier were suspended due to the excess charges that customers were being asked to pay. You could still order small items that could be sent by post. Three tubes of paint though was too much - I could order two normal tubes or one large tube but not both. 

Research then took me to a Spanish site Artemiranda that sold the paints I needed except that two of the colours were out of stock. 

Normally it would be a simple matter of waiting a week or two for new stock to arrive but we already know that a large percentage of goods that used to flow from the UK to the EU and reverse are not bing transported due to issues with paperwork. 

The problems with supply were confirmed yesterday by a trip to Iceland Overseas Stores. There were many items of fresh produce e.g. cheeses that were missing from the shelves and the staff reported that there was little chance of getting new supplies any time soon. The store obviously has stock of long life items but even they will run out eventually. 

I haven't tried buying anything else from the UK yet. We do buy clothes from M&S but since lockdown began, there has been little need for new clothes. I've just checked their site to find this message.

 Following the UK’s departure from the EU, you will now need to complete a customs declaration form for all orders arriving in the EU from the UK. You will be contacted directly by your local courier with the relevant details to facilitate delivery. No additional duties or taxes will be payable.

I've not heard complaints from friends and relatives in the UK about getting goods from Europe, perhaps the UK has better stockpiles. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Going, going, gone

A trip down to the town yesterday proved interesting. Apart from the work on Calle Mayor, there was wholesale destruction taking place on Calle 1 de Mayo between Calle Purisima and Calle San Joaquin. 


Not to miss out

We would normally have a Middle Year Festival in February. Obviously that can't happen this year.  So, instead of the usual fancy dress parade through the streets, there will be a virtual parade on the town's website. 


Tuesday, February 09, 2021

A change of emphasis

 When the coronavirus vaccines were being developed, we were told that this was the way out of the crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel and the pathway back to normality. Our hopes were therefore raised when trials of these vaccines showed that they were both effective and safe. 

I may have misunderstood but my impression was that the vaccines were meant to build antibodies that would prevent you from being infected with Covid 19. We were told that the Pfizer/Moderna and Astra Zeneca style vaccines work in different ways but both had been shown to work. 

Originally there was talk of up to 95% effectiveness  whichever vaccine you were given and I assumed that meant they were almost guaranteed to prevent infection in all age groups. In other words, it didn't matter which vaccine you were given you would be equally well protected. Now we are told that the Astra Zeneca jab has yet to be proven  effective for senior citizens which is why most countries in Europe have decided not to use these with older people. Only the under 55s will be given the Astra Zeneca jab here in Spain.   

Further more,  there is a South African variant and reports from that country say that the Astra Zeneca vaccine is not effective against it. In South Africa they have stopped administering that vaccine until there is evidence that it will work.. 

In response, the UK is saying the Astra Zeneca jab may not prevent you from infection but it should stop you being seriously ill, requiring hospital treatment and dying and that surely is the important thing. Presumably you would still be infectious and thus capable of passing the virus to others.  I have not come across any similar concerns about the Pfizer vaccine so I assume that it still works against the new variants of the virus 

Don't get me wrong, when the Medical Centre in Bigastro phones me to make an appointment, I will be there with a smile on my face and thank the person who puts the needle into my arm. The fact that I will certainly be given the Pfizer version and not the Astra Zeneca one gives me a crumb of comfort. However it won't make me more confident to go out into crowded places and certainly won't make me abandon my mask any time soon. 

Monday, February 08, 2021

Covid measures remain

The President of the Generalitat believes that it is not the time to relax measures in the Valencian Community

Incidence of cases in the Valencian Community  stand at 1,190 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. That is 17 percent less than last week, but it is still very high, with 36,181 positives since Monday (which are also down 33 percent) and 3,651 admissions for covid in hospitals, almost 850 less than seven days ago. Despite the improvement, hospital occupancy by coronavirus patients  remains 34 percent, in ICUs it is close to 60 and so far this week 569 people have died. Data that, for Puig, show that it is not yet the time to relax any measure.

This Monday 60,000 doses of vaccines will arrive in the Valencian Community in a week that Puig considers "key" for the advancement of immunization. The Health Service  hopes to have finished in mid-February vaccinating the first groups (residences and first-line health) allowing them to advance with the following groups.

The Astra Zeneca vaccine will only be given to the 18-55 year old group amid fears about its efficiency for older people. 

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The promised levelling up!

Johnson and Hancock are gloating over the success of the vaccination rollout in the UK. Quite rightly, since 10.5 million have received their first dose and it looks possible that the target of 13.9 million by the middle of the month may be achieved. 

However, whether you have been given the first jab depends on where you live. No surprise that London leads the way by a wide margin. 


Monday, February 01, 2021

At a snail's pace

On  Tuesday 12th Spain received its first 35,700 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine,

In total, the country is due to receive 600,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of the month of February. The quantities received will gradually rise, with 50,000 due to arrive this week. another 127,000 two weeks later, and 383,000 more in the third week of February. 

The country is currently receiving 350,000 doses a week of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Astra Zeneca vaccine has been approved but not yet distributed.

Meanwhile, in Britain, they are administering over half a million doses a day!

In the UK, more than 8,977,300 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 jab and 491,000 have had the second since the vaccination drive began, according to government figures.

The EU signed contracts with AstraZeneca (400 million doses), Sanofi-GSK (300 million doses), Johnson and Johnson (400 million doses ), BioNTech-Pfizer 600 million doses, CureVac (405 million doses) and Moderna (160 million doses). The Commission has concluded exploratory talks with the pharmaceutical company Novavax with a view to purchasing up to 200 million doses and with Valneva with a view to purchase up to 60 million doses.

This means that the Commission has secured a portfolio of more than 2.3 billion doses. The question is, "when will we get them?".


Take a fast train

The first high Speed train from Orihuela to Madrid left this morning, at 06:28. 

Renfe offers the Madrid-Elche-Orihuela AVE service with four trains per day - two in each direction between Madrid Puerta de Atoche and the Elche Alta Velocity and Orihuela Miguel Hernández stations. 

The new service offers a direct connection between Madrid and Elche in 2 hours and 10 minutes, which on the section to Orihuela will be 2 hours and 22 minutes.

When Pam and I went to Madrid we flew from Alicante-Elche Airport. The flight time is just under an hour but of course we had to get to the airport, be there in advance, collect our luggage at Madrid and take a taxi from Madrid Airport to the city. One hour easily became five or more.  

Photo from Vega Baja Digital