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Storm Filomena: Spain sees ‘exceptional’ snowfall

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Storm Filomena has blanketed parts of Spain in heavy snow, with half of the country on red alert for more on Saturday.

Road, rail and air travel has been disrupted and interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the country was facing “the most intense storm in the last 50 years”.

Madrid, one of the worst affected areas, is set to see up to 20cm (eight inches) of snow in the next 24 hours.

Further south the storm caused rivers to burst their banks.

Four deaths have been reported so far as a result of Filomena. Officials said two people had been found frozen to death – one in the town of Zarzalejo, north-west of Madrid, and the other in the eastern city of Calatayud. Two people travelling in a car were swept away by floods near the southern city of Malaga.

As snow fell on Madrid on Friday evening, a number of vehicles became stranded on a motorway near the capital.

The city’s Barajas airport has closed, along with a number of roads, and all trains to and from Madrid have been cancelled.

Firefighters were called in to assist drivers who had become stuck. In some areas the military were called in to help clear roads.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people to stay at home and to follow the instructions of emergency services. King Felipe and Queen Letizia took to Twitter to urge “extreme caution against the risks of accumulation of ice and snow”.

The country’s AEMET weather agency said the snowfall was “exceptional and most likely historic”.

A number of people were seen making the most of the snowy scenery, walking through Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square.

Large parks in Madrid have since been closed as a precaution, AFP news agency reports.

One man was pictured skiing along the Gran Via, the capital’s famous shopping street.

In Cañada Real, the largest shanty town in western Europe, residents were seen creating a bonfire to keep warm.

The cold weather is set to continue beyond the weekend with temperatures in Madrid predicted to hit -12C on Thursday.

 

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55586751

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Spain reports first case of Omicron Covid variant

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thelocal– Spain said Monday it had detected its first case of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 in a man who had recently arrived from South Africa.

The 51-year-old was tested when he arrived at Madrid airport on Sunday via Amsterdam and was found to be positive, the regional government of Madrid said in a statement.

“The patient has light symptoms and is undergoing quarantine,” the statement added.

Earlier on Monday, Madrid’s Gregorio Maranon Hospital tweeted that its microbiology service had detected the first case of the Omicron variant in Spain, without giving further details.

The World Health Organization has listed Omicron as a “variant of concern” and countries around the world are now restricting travel from southern Africa, where the new strain was first detected, and taking other new precautions.

The WHO says it could take several weeks to know if there are significant changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

Several other European nations, including Belgium, Britain and Germany have detected cases of the variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

On Friday, Spanish authorities suspended flights with South Africa and Botswana in reaction to growing concerns over the new variant which was first detected in the South African city of Pretoria.

The following day, Spain’s Health Ministry put Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe on its new high-risk list.

Travellers who are able to reach Spain from these nations will have to present a negative PCR or NAAT test taken within 72 hours prior to travel to Spain even if they are fully vaccinated.

They must also go into quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Spain, or for their whole stay if it’s under 10 days.

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Spanish researchers pave way for fair play in global Covid testing and research

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thelocal– The World Health Organisation described the accord as the first transparent, global, non-exclusive licence for a Covid-19 health tool, that should help towards correcting the “devastating global inequity” in access.

The deal brings the Spanish National Research Council CSIC together with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) knowledge-sharing platform.

“The aim of the licence is to facilitate the rapid manufacture and commercialisation of CSIC’s Covid-19 serological test worldwide,” the WHO said.

The test effectively detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to either a Covid-19 infection or a vaccine.

CSIC, one of Europe’s main public research institutions, will provide the MPP or prospective licencees with know-how and training.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the licence, which will be royalty-free for low and middle-income countries, as “the kind of open and transparent licence we need to move the needle on access during and after the pandemic”.

He added: “I urge developers of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide… on the devastating
global inequity this pandemic has spotlighted.”

C-TAP was founded in May 2020 as a platform for developers of Covid-19 tools to share knowledge and intellectual property.

Set up during the scramble for Covid vaccines and treatments, the health technology repository was first suggested by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

The information pool was intended as a voluntary global bank for IP and open-sourced data as part of a common front against the new coronavirus.

However, as it turned out, rival pharmaceutical companies have largely kept their findings to themselves rather than sharing them as global public goods.

Tuesday’s deal “shows that solidarity and equitable access can be achieved”, said Alvarado.

CSIC president Rosa Menéndez said she hoped the move would serve as an example for other research organisations.

‘Preposterous’ tests hoarding

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the test could quantify three different types of antibodies — and crucially, differentiate vaccinated people from those with natural Covid infection.

“This feature will become very important for measuring the number of Covid-19 cases in countries and the impact of control measures,” it said.

In welcoming CSIC’s move, MSF diagnostics adviser Stijn Deborggraeve said it was “preposterous” in a global pandemic that tests were being monopolised by “a handful of privileged people and countries”.

The Geneva-based MPP is a UN-backed international organisation that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.

The antibody test licensing accord is the third Covid-related deal that the global pool has struck in a month.

Last week, the MPP reached an agreement with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in 95 low- and middle-income countries via sub-licensing to generic drug manufacturers.

The MPP signed a similar deal last month with Pfizer’s US rival Merck for its prospective oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir.

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In 2 days, 10 migrants die trying to reach Spanish islands

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euronews– Spanish rescuers say 10 migrants have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Rescuers said Monday they found a migrant boat drifting 200 kilometres from the Canary Islands and saved 40 people but recovered two bodies.

The boat is believed to have departed from Dakhla on the coast of Western Sahara five days ago. A Spanish rescue plane spotted it drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. At least five people had to be evacuated by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Gran Canaria for urgent medical attention. The other survivors were being brought back to the port of Arguineguín on the same island in one of Spain’s rescue ships.

Some 900 migrants have reportedly died or gone missing on the dangerous migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, according to the U.N. migration agency. Experts say even that number is an undercount as many migrant ships sink with no confirmation.

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