Spanish nightclub industry draws up code to allow safe partying

MADRID (Reuters) – Dancing with masks on, sipping drinks with straws and keeping to marked off areas of the dance floor are among post-lockdown safety proposals aimed at helping Spain’s nightclubs reopen their doors in time for the summer season.

Clubs have been shut since the government imposed one of the most stringent coronavirus restrictions in Europe in March, which devastated the tourism sector that accounts for more than 12% of Spanish GDP.

With the lockdown now easing, the National Federation of Leisure and Entertainment Businesses (FNEOE), an industry group, and the Institute for Quality Tourism, a lobby group, have drawn up safety guidelines as they wait for the green light for clubs to open.

The plan recommends masks should be compulsory on the dance floor and clubbers would have to wash their hands as they enter and leave discos. Dance floors would be clearly marked off from other parts of clubs so customers did not mix and drinks would only be served with disposable straws.

The nightlife sector, including “super clubs” on the island of Ibiza such as Pacha, Amnesia, and Eden that are popular with tourists, produces annual revenue of some 20 billion euros ($22 billion), according to the FNEOE.

Getting it restarted will depend on the approval of the government, which has so far only allowed bars to open outdoor terraces, and with limited capacity. There is no word yet on when nightclubs will be allowed to open.

“These guidelines were drawn up by doctors to try to ensure that people can enjoy an essential part of the Spanish life in a safe way,” said FNEOE spokesman Vicente Pizcueta, adding that he hoped things will return to normal in July.

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Brazil overtakes Spain and Italy as virus cases grow

Brazil has overtaken Spain and Italy to become the country with the fourth largest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world.

Officials on Saturday reported 14,919 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 233,142. Only the US, Russia and the UK have higher numbers.

The daily death toll in the Latin American nation rose by 816 to 15,633 – the world’s fifth highest.

Experts warn that the real figure may be far higher due to a lack of testing.

The mayor of the country’s most populous city, São Paulo, warned on Sunday that the city’s health system could collapse. Bruno Covas said the public hospitals in the city reached 90% capacity for emergency beds, with demand still growing.

Mr Covas said he was in crisis talks with the state governor over introducing a strict lockdown to try to slow contagion before hospitals ran out of space in an estimated two weeks’ time.

Health experts in Brazil have warned that the real number of confirmed infections in the country may be far higher than the official records, due to a lack of testing.

“Brazil is only testing people who end up in the hospital,” Domingo Alves from the University of São Paulo Medical School told AFP news agency last week.

“It’s hard to know what’s really happening based on the available data. We don’t have a real policy to manage the outbreak,” he said.

Mr Alves is one of the authors of a study that estimated the real number of infections was 15 times higher than the official figure.

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has been strongly criticised both at home and abroad for his handling of the country’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

Mr Bolsonaro continues to oppose lockdown measures. He has downplayed the virus as “a little flu” and has said the spread of Covid-19 is inevitable.

In April, Mr Bolsonaro joined protesters demanding that lockdown restrictions be lifted. He says the restrictions are damaging the country’s economy, bringing unemployment and hunger.

Last week, Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned after less than a month in the job. Mr Teich stepped down after he had publicly criticised a decree by Mr Bolsonaro allowing gyms and beauty parlours to reopen. Mr Teich’s predecessor was sacked after disagreeing with Mr Bolsonaro.

In the face of mixed messages, and with little government help at hand, not enough Brazilians are staying at home to slow the spread of the virus, the BBC’s Americas editor Candace Piette says.

What’s the latest in the wider region?

Brazil, by far the largest country in Latin America, has for several weeks been at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded more than 500,000 infections, with Brazil accounting for nearly 50% of the cases.

Mexico has recently seen a spike in new infections, while Ecuador saw its health system collapse in April.

The sharp rise in cases in Latin America has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to say the Americas are currently at the centre of the pandemic.

In March, the WHO had labelled Europe the “epicentre of the pandemic” but the region is now slowly beginning to ease restrictions brought in to slow the spread of the virus.

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Spanish nurse returns to frontline after bout with coronavirus

MADRID (Reuters) – Just a few months ago, coronavirus floated around unnoticed in the hospital near Madrid where Cristina Cadenas worked as nurse in the orthopaedics department.

Staff wore no special protection in late February as it was considered a safe area. But one patient was already infected without knowing it and the coronavirus spread.

Cadenas was one of about 10 health workers in her department to catch it. It took her a month to recover.

Reuters followed her for around six weeks as she dealt with the disease and later returned to work.

“We have not been taken care of at all,” said Cadenas, 53, after her first day back at the Hospital Principe de Asturias in Alcala de Henares, a suburb of Madrid.

Spain is one of the countries worst hit by the global pandemic, with more than 25,600 deaths and about 220,000 confirmed cases, according to the Health Ministry. Health staff account for around 43,000 nationwide cases.

Madrid is the most-affected region.


Cadenas said that hospital staff had suffered from cuts in public health budgets in recent years. Many temporary contracts were not renewed and some workers had looked for jobs outside Spain, she said.

A regional health department source said Madrid’s current health budget of 8.1 billion euros is the highest it has had.

The Madrid region had about 54,500 health workers in 2018, about 2,500 less than in 2013, official data showed. More than 10,000 additional staff have been hired to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the regional department source said.

Madrid also had the lowest public health spending related to GDP of all 17 of Spain’s regions in 2018, according to the Health Ministry. Since 2012 it has remained below the 2011 level.

The source dismissed those figures, saying they did not include other factors such as population trends.

Medical unions have also complained of a lack of protective equipment among workers during the outbreak and filed lawsuits to compel authorities to provide it.

The hospital did not respond to requests for comment.


Cadenas spent four weeks at her apartment battling coronavirus.

She had her own bathroom and remained isolated from her 19-year-old daughter. She cooked food at separate times although at times she lost her appetite. Routines such as showering became a physical struggle.

Things had changed drastically when, after two negative coronavirus tests, Cadenas resumed her job on April 6 at the hospital where she has worked since 2011.

She had to wear a full-body suit, double mask and a face protector as her department had been transformed to exclusively deal with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.

As an assistant nurse, she had very close contact with weakened patients, who can barely move and need constant help, such as getting cleaned.

“I like my job and I am happy to be back,” Cadenas said.

Three weeks later, she had no time to think about the period she spent sick, saying was focused on avoiding bringing home the virus. She hoped she had developed antibodies to prevent a potential second infection.

“I go day-by-day. It’s all good,” Cadenas said.

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Spain's daily coronavirus death toll picks up slightly

MADRID (Reuters) – The number of daily fatalities from the novel coronavirus reported in Spain rose on Monday to 331, up from 288 the previous day, the health ministry said.

The overall death toll caused by the disease rose to 23,521 from 23,190 the day before. The total number of diagnosed cases rose to 209,465 from 207,634 the day before.

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Spanish children allowed outside for first time in six weeks

As national lockdown is eased, accompanied children under 14 can enjoy an hour outdoors within 1 kilometre of home.

Streets across Spain resounded with the sounds of children shouting and the rattle of their bicycles on Sunday as millions were allowed to play outside for the first time in six weeks as the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was relaxed further.

Those under the age of 14 have been allowed one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day between 9am (07:00 GMT) and 9pm (19:00 GMT), as long as they remain within one kilometre of their home.


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Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playgrounds or share toys, and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, remaining at least two metres (6.5 feet) from other people. For the time being, schools remain closed.

The move came as Spain, which has confirmed the second-highest number of infections behind the United States, recorded its lowest daily death toll since a national lockdown was imposed on March 14.

In the past 24 hours, 288 people died and the number of new infections also dropped, providing some hope that strict measures were beginning to pay dividends.

Overall the country’s latest tally marked more than 22,000 deaths amid 220,000 infections according to John Hopkins University. 

“This is a big release after 43 days of strict lockdown,” said Al Jazeera’s Marta Herrero, reporting from Madrid.

“The picture that we see today in Spain is parents with the kids, with their bicycles and scooters. We also see plenty of police patrolling and drones warning all parents and the kids to keep the safe distancing,” she said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that if the trends continue to slow in the coming days, adults would be allowed to exercise individually from May 2. So far, Spanish adults have only been allowed outside for essential shopping or to go to work.

“This is wonderful! I can’t believe it has been six weeks,” Susana Sabate, a mother of three-year-old twin boys in Barcelona, told the Associated Press news agency. “My boys are very active. Today when they saw the front door and we gave them their scooters, they were thrilled.”

Lucia Ibanez, 9, out for a walk with her mother, said she had missed the streets and the park and “feeling the air on your face” during the lockdown, Reuters news agency reported. “I never thought I would miss school but I really miss it,” she said.

‘Safe tourism’

Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said the country would begin gradually reopening economic activity in the coming weeks, adding the government was particularly concerned to ensure that tourism, which accounts for 12 percent of GDP, opened up safely.

“If we open (tourism) it has to be with total security; most employers and unions are already working on what constitutes ‘safe tourism’ so as not to unnecessarily increase our risks,” she told a news conference.

As the lockdown is eased, there is still a need to avoid overcrowding, Ribera said, noting ideas such as staggered work start times, widening pedestrian areas, and continued remote working for those able to.

Emergency health chief Fernando Simon said the country must ensure the health system could respond if there is another outbreak.

Spain needs to guard against “new waves” of the illness, he told a separate news conference. He added the aim was a gradual return to normal, cautioning “it will not be the same normality that we knew a year ago”.

A ministry document recommends that regions double their intensive-care capacity to cope with possible increases in COVID-19 cases as lockdown measures are eased.

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Spain considers summer school for quarantined children, coronavirus deaths rise

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain reported another substantial increase in daily deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the overall toll to more than 19,000, but figures from the region of Catalonia suggest the true total could be several thousand higher.

The health ministry said 551 people died in the 24 hours to Thursday, up from 523 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 19,130.

The overall number of those infected rose to 182,816 from 177,633 on Wednesday, an increase that health emergency chief Fernando Simon said was largely due to increased testing. Most of those newly identified had mild or no symptoms, he said.

Spain has been one of the countries worst hit by the global epidemic but has tentatively begun to ease a strict lockdown imposed on March 14, opening up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, earlier this week.

Shops, bars, restaurants and other social gathering places remain shuttered.

“The increase in the number of tests has led to an increase in the number of cases,” Simon said at the government’s daily news conference, a day after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez promised a further ramping up of testing.

Yet despite signs that Spain is beginning to flatten the curve on infections and deaths, figures from Catalonia indicate that not all of those who have died have been captured in the national tallies.

The region’s health department announced late on Wednesday an additional 3,242 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, nearly doubling its previous tally for the region.

The increase was due to a methodology change, officials said, with data from funerary services on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and private homes included for the first time, whereas previously only confirmed coronavirus hospital deaths were being counted.

Simon said he was discussing the matter with health officials in Catalonia and emphasised that the national tally only took into account people diagnosed with coronavirus.

“If these new reported cases meet the criteria, we will have to consider them,” Simon said on Thursday.

Other Spanish regions are checking how many people have died in their nursing homes. If deaths are confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19 and the government accepts the data, it is possible the national tally would increase significantly.

As the government battles to return to some form of normalcy, officials said they were considering an optional summer education programme to allow children to catch up on lost school time.

Public pressure is mounting as Spain enters its second month of lockdown, with parents petitioning the government to let their children outside and clarify what will happen with school-curriculum losses caused by the outbreak.

“The school year ends in June, but there will be a summer program if health conditions allow,” Education Minister Isabel Celaa said. “A plan of school support so that children can be outdoors, exercising and learning.”

Health Minister Salvador Illa said his ministry was monitoring the epidemiological situation to decide when and how to let children outside.

“We know that confinement is a challenge for [children] and their families,” he said.

But petitioners are growing frustrated.

“These days ‘health’ is on everyone’s lips, but it seems we’ve forgotten about psychological health,” one campaigner, Gloria Gomez, wrote on Thursday on the website, where a petition calling for children to be allowed out passed 54,000 signatures.

“Our children need fresh air more than anyone to ensure their physical and mental health.”

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Spain partially loosens lockdown as coronavirus death rate slows

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain let some businesses get back to work on Monday, but one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe remained in place despite a slowing in the country’s coronavirus death rate.

Police handed out face masks to people passing through major transport hubs as they went to work, although only a few commuters were seen using Madrid’s usually bustling Atocha train station and road traffic was mainly public buses.

Although some activities, including construction and manufacturing, were allowed to restart, Health Minister Salvador Illa said that Spain remained in lockdown. Shops, bars and public spaces are set to stay closed until at least April 26.

Restrictions have helped slow a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April and some workers expressed concern that a relaxation could trigger a surge in cases.

“I would have preferred to wait 15 more days confined to home or at least one more week and then come back,” said Carlos Mogorron, a 27-year-old engineer from Extremadura in western Spain who was planning to return to work on Tuesday.

Spain recorded its smallest proportional daily rise in the number of deaths and new infections since early March, with the cumulative toll rising by 517 to 17,489.

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The Health Ministry said on Monday confirmed coronavirus cases totalled 169,496, up from 166,019 the previous day.

“You are always afraid of catching it and even more so knowing that your life may be in danger, or your relatives,” said Mogorron, who lives with his house-bound parents.

Business association CEOE warned that many companies, particularly the small firms that make up the bulk of the Spanish economy, do not have access to the protective equipment like gloves and masks needed to guarantee the safety of staff.

Some regional leaders also criticised the moves, fearing a resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak, which is weighing heavily on the Spanish economy, with some 900,000 jobs lost since mid-March.


Deaths in Italy from the epidemic rose over the weekend to 19,468 and the number of new cases climbed to 4,694 from 3,951. It was the highest daily death toll since April 6.

After easing from peaks around the end of March, Italy’s daily death and infection tallies have fallen but not as steeply as was hoped by Italians who have been in lockdown for a month.

Nor was there any indication that Britain would lift restrictions anytime soon as its death toll passed 10,000 and a scientific adviser to the government said the country risked becoming the worst hit in Europe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson left hospital after several days due to a serious case of the coronavirus, saying “things could have gone either way” for him.

In Germany, where new infections and deaths have declined, senior politicians began debating a potential easing of restrictions imposed since mid-March. Germany has weathered the pandemic better than its biggest neighbours.


In Spain, while businesses from wind turbine maker Siemens Gamesa (SGREN.MC) to fashion giant Inditex (ITX.MC) began increasing activity, production lines at Volkswagen-owned Seat remained shut.

Burgos-based industrial group Nicolas Correa (NEA.MC), said it would take measures to prioritise the health of its staff.

“We will continue to work in shifts, with staggered entries and exits to avoid concentrations of staff,” it said, adding that all workers would be provided with protective equipment.

In Catalonia, Spain’s second-worst hit region, the government warned that the resumption of some work could lead to a rise in infections and wipe out the gains of the lockdown.

The regional government issued recommendations including measuring employees’ temperatures before entering the workplace and controls outside metro stations to guarantee a one-third occupancy rate.

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Spain's coronavirus deaths up to 13,798 as pace ticks up again

MADRID (Reuters) – The pace of coronavirus deaths in Spain ticked up slightly for the first time in five days on Tuesday, with 743 people succumbing overnight to reach a total of 13,798.

That compared to 637 people who died during the previous 24 hours in the nation with the second highest toll of fatalities in the world from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total cases rose to 140,510 on Tuesday from 135,032 on Monday, the health ministry said.

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Spain's coronavirus deaths top 10,000, yet there is 'glimpse of hope'

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose above 10,000 on Thursday after a record 950 people died overnight, but health officials saw a glimmer of hope with the epidemic slowing in terms of proportional daily increases in infections and deaths.

Spain has the world’s second-highest death toll after Italy at 10,003 but Thursday’s one-day toll was the highest for any country since the start of the epidemic.

The number of registered coronavirus cases rose about 8% from Wednesday to 110,238, the ministry said. The total deaths rose by just over 10%, about the same rate as the previous day.

However, the daily increase in infections in percentage terms has been slowing gradually since March 25, when reported cases rose by just over 20%.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told parliament. “A glimpse of hope: the curve has stabilized. We have reached … the peak of the curve and we have started the slowdown phase.”

Spain has been in a lockdown since March 14, allowing residents to leave their homes only for essential trips. This week it tightened the measures, with only employees in key sectors permitted to travel to and from work.

Laying bare the scale of the outbreak’s economic impact, data showed on Thursday that Spain has shed an unprecedented 900,000 jobs since it went into lockdown, with temporary layoffs affecting at least another 620,000.

Social security data also showed that around 80,000 workers are off sick with coronavirus, while 170,000 more are on sick leave because they are isolated after coming into contact with someone with the virus.

Nursing homes, whose elderly residents are highly vulnerable to the disease, have been particularly hard hit.

Clad in white protective gear, funeral service workers could be seen taking out coffins from a nursing home in Leganes on the outskirts of Madrid, where 50 residents had died since the start of the epidemic according to EFE news agency, and putting them in a van, Reuters footage showed.

Later, ambulances picked up various uninfected residents to take them to other homes. Two-thirds of 150 residents tested in the Vitalia home on Wednesday had coronavirus, EFE said. Vitalia administration was not immediately available for comment.

The separatist government of Spain’s Catalonia region – the country’s second worst-hit after Madrid – abandoned its initial reluctance and asked the national military to send medical teams and help it tackle the coronavirus.

Last month, an official of the Catalonia government, whose push for independence has created political turmoil in recent years, said military help was “totally unnecessary”.

Now, senior health official Alba Verges said it would be welcome, adding that Catalonia’s intensive care capacity was “at the limit”. Catalonia has also asked to speed up the process for Spain to allow Cuban and Chinese doctors to join the effort.

Separately, Health Minister Illa said Seat, the local unit of German automaker Volkswagen, whose car production lines have been shut for more than two weeks, will produce 300 ventilators for emergency rooms per day. A local company, Hersill, will make another 100 ventilators a day, he said.

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Spain toughens restrictions as coronavirus death toll surges

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain prepared to enter its third week under near-total lockdown on Sunday, as the government approved a strengthening of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the death toll rose by 838 cases overnight to 6,528.

Second only to Italy in fatalities, Spain also saw infections rise to 78,797 from 72,248 the day before.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in a televised address to the nation on Saturday night, announced that all non-essential workers must stay at home for two weeks, the latest government measure in the fight against coronavirus. [L8N2BL0LH]

He said workers would receive their usual salaries but would have to make up lost hours at a later date. The measure would last from March 30 to April 9.

On Sunday, Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said the measure was “flexible” and workers would be paid but would be expected to make up their lost days before Dec. 31.

“We need to reduce mobility to the level of Sundays,” she said, adding that taking into account the Easter holidays, measures would cover eight working days.

She added to Prime Minister Sanchez’s calls for the EU to react, saying “we need a Europe in which workers’ rights are reinforced”.

Unions welcomed the measures and business groups CEOE and CEPYME said that while they would comply with the new rule, “it will generate an unprecedented huge impact on the Spanish economy, especially in sectors such as industry”.

The slowdown “may lead to a deeper crisis in the economy that could become social”, they warned in a statement.

On Sunday, health emergency chief Fernando Simon repeated a warning that intensive care wards were becoming saturated, but said cases were stabilizing and “the rise in new cases has been falling for a few days”.

In Madrid, birdsong drowned out traffic on deserted streets on Sunday morning as police reinforced patrols, stopping buses and cars to check passengers had reason to be out of their homes.

The number of beds at a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients in the IFEMA conference center will soon reach 1,400, Madrid’s regional government said.

It also announced an official period of mourning for those who have died. Flags will fly at half-mast and a daily minute’s silence will be held.

Schools, bars, restaurants and shops selling non-essential items have been shut since March 14 and most of the population is house-bound as Spain tries to curb the virus.

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