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What’s next for Madrid as authorities prepare to take ‘decisive’ action?

Once again at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak, the Madrid region admitted it was overwhel..



Once again at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak, the Madrid region admitted it was overwhelmed, calling for “decisive” central government action with fresh restrictions set to be unveiled on Friday.

In a country where public health services are left in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, senior official Ignacio Aguado said it was “necessary and urgent that the Spanish government get involved, and that means decisively, in controlling the pandemic”.

“The reality of the epidemic in the community of Madrid is getting worse and we need to make greater efforts,” said Ignacio Aguado, vice president of the region of some 6.6 million people.

A press conference due to be held at 1pm on Friday to announce new measures was delayed until later in the day.

Spain is currently battling a resurgent second wave of Covid-19 although the mortality levels are far lower than they were in spring.

And once again, Madrid is the region with the worst outbreak, accounting for a third of the national figure for both infections and deaths with a level of transmission which the World Health Organization’s European director has described as “alarming”.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he had summoned Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the head of the Madrid region, for an emergency meeting “to define a common strategy”.

Madrid officials have warned that the region’s healthcare system was coming under increasing pressure with one in five hospital beds occupied by Covid patients. So far, there are 2,850 people in hospital of whom 392 are in intensive care, regional figures show.

A woman walks her dog past an empty restaurant terrace in downtown Madrid on September 16, 2020. AFP

The latest figures show 20,987 people have been diagnosed with Covid in the past seven days and 138 people have died.

In several districts of southern Madrid and a handful of areas just outside the capital, cases have shot up with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants — far above the national average of 285, which in itself is one of the highest rates in Europe.

The numbers have spiralled despite the fact that mask-wearing has long been compulsory in all public places across all of the country, with the region’s admission coming just days after the start of a new school year that has been overshadowed by the fears and worries of parents and teachers.

On Friday, Madrid is to unveil a raft of restrictions on movement to slow the spread of the virus, which regional sources say will take effect either on Saturday or Monday.

Regional health chief Antonio Ruiz Escudero said the Madrid government was working on a series of measures “to restrict mobility and reduce activity in certain areas.. where the virus is most-widely transmitted”.

“We are in a situation of sustained growth (in cases),” he warned.

“We have to do whatever is necessary to control the situation in Madrid” where we have “what is likely the biggest problem”, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

A new lockdown?

Thursday’s admission came a day after a top regional health official raised the possibility of a fresh lockdown in the worst-hit areas.

His remarks triggered anxiety and a flurry of questions about how it could work, given that most hotspots are poor areas where most people travel to work in the city centre or in other areas of the region.

“It would be bad for shops, for small businesses and little bars that survive on people coming in, for schools,” said Maribel Quesada, a 55-year-old resident of Puente de Vallecas, one of the worst-hit areas.

“People are really sick of being at home, the (spring) lockdown was very difficult,” she said of the three-month confinement under some of the strictest conditions in the world, with people only allowed out to buy food or medicine or for a medical emergency.

The regional authorities quickly called for calm but the measure they take will not be clear until Friday.

Spain has so far suffered more than 30,000 deaths and 600,000 cases of Covid-19, government figures show, with the numbers rising so rapidly that in one week alone, the country added around 100,000 new infections.

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Spain’s far-right Vox seek to make gains in 28 May local and regional elections



Spain’s third largest political group in the national parliament, the far-right Vox party, is looking to make gains in the local and regional elections due to be held across the country on 28 May.

Since it entered a regional government for the first time in Castilla y León last year, Vox has attacked the unions and pushed polarising positions on social issues, including abortion and transgender rights.

It is now poised to spread its influence beyond the sparsely populated region near Madrid, with the party hoping to make gains in the elections at the end of May.

Surveys suggest the main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), could need the support of Vox to govern in half of the 12 regions casting ballots, just as it did in Castilla y León last year.

Polls also indicate the PP is on track to win a year-end general election but would need Vox to form a working majority and oust socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition government from office.

Vox leader Santiago Abascal [pictured at a recent rally in Chinchón, near Madrid] has called the PP-VOX coalition government in office in Castilla y León since March 2022 a ‘showroom’ and ‘an example of the alternative Spain needs’.

It is Spain’s first government to include a far-right party since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

In Castilla y León, Vox has slashed funding to unions, which the party has vowed to ‘put in their place’ if it comes to power nationally. Trade union UGT was forced to lay off 40% of its staff in Castilla y León last month and scale back programmes to promote workspace safety. Spain’s other main union, the CCOO, is reportedly preparing to follow suit.

Vox has also angered LGBTQ groups by refusing to allow the regional parliament to be lit up in the colours of the rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement, for Pride festivities as in past years when the PP governed alone.

In addition, the regional vice-president, Vox’s Juan García-Gallardo, has railed against a law passed by Spain’s leftist central government that extends transgender rights.

The 32-year-old lawyer warned earlier this month that women would now be ‘forced to share locker rooms with hairy men at municipal swimming pools’.

Vox’s most contested initiative was a proposal that doctors offer women seeking an abortion a 4D ultrasound scan to try to discourage them from going ahead with the procedure.

The idea was swiftly condemned by Spain’s leftist central government, and Castilla y León’s PP president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco stopped the measure from going ahead.

The issue highlighted the hazards for the PP of joining forces with Vox, which was launched in 2013 and is now the third-largest party in the national parliament.


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Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months



The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.

EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.

Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.

This article was originally published on Público

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Spain – The retirement age rises to 66 years



Ordinary retirement at age 65 ends for those who have contributed less than 38 years. In fact, 2023 will be the last year in which this can be done since it will be necessary to have a contribution career of a minimum of 37 years and nine months to be able to retire with the reference age of the last century, since it was established in 1919, and once the year is over another quarter will be added to be able to do it without cuts in the benefit.
This requirement means that to access ordinary retirement at age 65 without loss of pay, it will be necessary to have been working, at least, since April 1985 for those who exercise this right in December 2023 and since May 1984 for those who intend to do it in January.

More than ten million contributory pensioners
In the last decade, and coinciding with the implementation of the delay program, the real retirement age of Spanish workers has increased by one year, from 63.9 in 2012 to 64.8 in mid-2022, according to data from the Financial Economic Report of the Social Security included in the General State Budget.

Contributory pensions will have a historic rise of 8.5% as of January as a result of the disproportionate increase in the CPI, while for non-contributory pensions the revision will be 15%. This review will place the average pension of the contributory system at 1,187 euros per pay, while the retirement pension will rise to 1,365, the disability pension will reach 1,122 and the widow’s pension will reach 847, as a result of applying the 8.5% increase.

The Social Security forecasts point to next year, and while waiting to find out the real effects that the rise may have on the payroll due to its “call effect” to bring forward retirement given the opportunity to alleviate with it the penalties for anticipating it, the number of pensioners will consolidate above ten million, with almost two-thirds of them (6.37) as retirees, to which will be added 2.3 million widows and almost one affected by work disabilities.

This record number of pensioners will place the cost of pensions at 209,165 million euros, the bulk of which (196,399, 93.8%) will be used to pay benefits, including non-contributory ones. Health care has a budget of 1,890 million euros and social services another 3,791, while the remaining 7,144 are dedicated to operating expenses.

On the revenue side, the largest contribution comes from the contribution chapter, which will amount to 152,075 million and will leave the gap with contributory benefits at 36,765.
The imbalance will be covered by a contribution of 38,904 from the Government, to which is added a chapter of others worth 18,116 and which includes everything from sanctions to asset disposals, among other concepts.

Read more of this from the source Público

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