Spain extends ‘state of emergency’ for one last final time

Spanish lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend the state of emergency a final time through to June 21st as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged an embittered opposition not to succumb to the "poison of hate".

Spain extends 'state of emergency' for one last final time
Pedro Sanchez won the vote to extend the state of emergency for another fortnight. Photo: AFP

It is the sixth time the measure has been renewed, meaning the restrictions will remain in force, although they have been significantly eased since the start of the lockdown in mid-March.

The emergency has let the government impose significant limitations on freedom of movement, keeping Spain's nearly 47 million population largely at home in a bid to fight the epidemic which has claimed over 27,000 lives.

Although Sanchez's left-wing coalition only holds a minority in the 350-seat chamber, the extension passed after he reached agreement with several smaller parties.

The vote went through with 177 for, 155 against and 18 abstentions.

Even though the pandemic is well under control in Spain, where only around 60 people have died over the past week, the government insists it is a fundamental measure as the country moves through the final phases of the rollback which is due to be completed by late June.

By that point, Sanchez is hoping that normal freedom of movement will be fully restored and Spain will open its borders to international visitors from July 1st.

But the government's management of the crisis has come under fierce attack from the right, which has accused Sanchez of abusing the state of emergency to suppress individual liberties.

“We undertook one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe and the West,” Sanchez told lawmakers. “It has been terribly hard but tremendously effective,” he said.

But his right-wing opponents quickly hit back, accusing him of incompetence.

People's Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado takes part in the Government's question time session prior to the vote. Photo: AFP


“You have been incapable of saving lives and have not defended the economy, affecting thousands of people,” said  Pablo Casado, head of the right-wing Popular Party.

And far-right Vox leader Santiago Abascal accused Sanchez of “criminal negligence” that had caused the deaths of “tens of thousands of Spaniards”.    

But the prime minister warned them about stirring hatred.    

“The poison of hatred is the most harmful,” he said, pointing to the massive unrest sweeping the United States following the killing of an unarmed African-American when a white policeman knelt on his neck.    

“We can see it in the United States and we don't want to see it here.”


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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.