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COVID-19

WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 ‘resurgence’ and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas

The World Health Organization in Europe Wednesday urged families to wear face masks during this year's Christmas family gatherings, as it warned of a "further resurgence" of Covid-19 in early 2021.

WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 'resurgence' and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas
Pedestrians wearing protective face masks check out the window in a store in Paris. Photo: AFP

The UN  agency said people should not underestimate “the importance of your decisions” and encouraged extra precaution for holiday gatherings, even within the family. 

If possible, the WHO said celebrations should be held outdoors and “participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing.”

For indoor festivities, the WHO said limiting the number of guests and ensuring good ventilation were key to reducing the risk of infection.

“It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy,” the health agency said in a statement.

The plea came as the agency noted that “Covid-19 transmission across the European region remains widespread and intense,” even though some “fragile progress” had been made.

“There is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021, and we will need to work together if we are to succeed in preventing it,” WHO Europe said.

The WHO's European Region comprises 53 countries and includes Russia and several countries in Central Asia, a region that has registered more than 22 million cases of the new coronavirus and close to 500,000 deaths.

In the last seven days, nearly 1.7 million new cases have been recorded, as well as more than 34,500 deaths.

As a second wave of the novel coronavirus is sweeping over the continent, many countries have once again introduced tough measures to curb the spread.

On Wednesday, several new measures were imposed, including the closure of non-essential shops in Germany and pubs and restaurants in Britain.

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ECONOMY

Increasing food prices put Spaniards at risk of poor nutrition

The skyrocketing prices of basic foods are putting Spaniards at risk of poor nutrition and increasing the use of food banks.

Increasing food prices put Spaniards at risk of poor nutrition

The effects of Spain’s rampant inflation and upwards price pressures on food are having an impact not only on Spaniards bank accounts, but their health too.

In Spain, supermarket prices have skyrocketed in recent months. The price of a melon, for example, recently topped €13, an increase so extreme that it highlights the nutritional quality of poorer Spaniards’ lives during times of economic hardship, and how they can be priced out of healthy, nutritious goods.

According to Spain’s national statistics body, the INE, in June of this year the prices of 46 household products were more expensive and above the overall Consumer Price Index (the rate used to calculate inflation, known as CPI) of 10.2 percent.

But in times of economic crisis, rising shopping basket prices can also effect the quality of nutrition people are able to access, and this is especially true in lower income families.

READ ALSO: Spain’s July inflation rate reaches new 38-year high

Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest that food prices have reached their highest level since 1990.

The Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) warned in July of a 15.2 percent price increase in the price of food shopping in a year. OCU figures also point to a 52.6 percent increase in olive oil prices and a rise of 12.4 percent for fruit and vegetables.

Spaniards across the country are being priced out of balanced, healthy diets and surviving on a deficit of fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil – staples of the much famed Mediterranean diet – and types of the food products that have increased in price.

The rising price of staple foods can end up causing consumers to look to “low quality, cheap and appetite-relied” products, Professor of Nutrition at the Complutense University of Madrid, Jesús Román, told the Spanish press last week.

READ MORE: Rising inflation in Spain: Six cost-cutting ways to fight it

Rising prices, he says, forces poorer income families to “opt for cheaper foods that are usually of lower quality, restricting those that are healthier.”

Unable to afford to eat healthily, many Spaniards are now forced to opt for cheaper and unhealthier alternatives. The consequences are clear, particularly on children who can’t access a nutritional diet during their developmental years.

In a Report on Childhood Obesity in Spain put together by supermarket chain Eroski, they concluded that childhood obesity is “a form of excessive malnutrition that, in many cases, also continues in adulthood.”

Research by the International University of Valencia (VIU) indicates that in the decade between 2011 and 2021 the percentage of overweight children in Spain increased to almost 40 percent. Among adolescents, that figure is 30 percent.

The Spanish government recently introduced the National Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Childhood Obesity with the aim of reducing obesity rates by 25 percent over the next decade.

Spain is one of the EU’s member states with the highest correlation between the risk of child poverty and obesity, and with rising food prices making a healthier, balanced diet more expensive and difficult to access, the combination of post-pandemic economic recovery and record inflationary pressures on food prices could push more into poverty.

Data published last May by the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (Fesbal) shows that in 2022, 20 percent more Spaniards will visit and rely on food banks than in 2021.

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