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PAMPLONA

Running of the bulls: Pamplona’s San Fermin cancelled over coronavirus

Spain’s most famous running of the bulls fiesta has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus.

Running of the bulls: Pamplona's San Fermin cancelled over coronavirus
Social distancing just wouln´t be possible at San Fermin. Photo: AFP

San Fermin is celebrated each July in the northern city of Pamplona, Navarra, but the fiesta which draws crowds of a million revellers will not be taking place this summer.

Pamplona’s city council officially announced news of the cancellation of the event on Tuesday, confirming what many regular festival goers had suspected.

The festival, which kicks off on July 6th attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, who cram into the Navarran capital for the eight-day long non-stop party, which involves religious parades, concerts, bullfights as well as the daily ‘encierros’ or bull runs.

Each morning at 8am crowds of runners traditionally dressed in white with red pañuelos and sashes await the release of six Spanish fighting bulls and six steers, who race through the narrow cobbled streets to the bullring.


Crowds squeezed into the sqaure infront of the town hall for the chupinazo marking the start of the fiesta: Photo: AFP

Similar encierros take place in towns across the Basque region but Pamplona's San Fermin is the biggest and most famous after being immortalised in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises”.

“As expected as it was, it still leaves us deeply sad,” said acting mayor Ana Elizalde when announcing the inevitable news that the festival could not be carried out with social distancing measures in place.

She was unable to say whether it might be held at a later date, given the unpredictability of the coronavirus health crisis.

“It seems complicated to celebrate San Fermin (at all) this year, but we will wait to see how events evolve”, she said.


Photo: AFP

It is not the only time in its history that the fiesta has been cancelled. It was also suspended in 1937 and 1938 during the Spanish Civil War, and had to be cancelled a third time in 1978 after a student was shot during clashes between police and protesters calling for an independent Basque region. 

Deirdre Carney, an American now living in Spain who has has attended the fiesta since childhood, said: “The last time San Fermin was called off was the year I was born. My father was there and he and his friends were holed up in their hotel for a few days to avoid the rioting.

“That was 42 years ago, and it is completely shocking to the people of Navarra and everyone who loves the festival to have this happen again. Of course everyone understands why, and that there was no other choice, but we are nonetheless very saddened. The fiesta is a celebration of life and joy, so we will return next year and it will be even more meaningful than ever.”

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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