The first batch of coronavirus vaccine was expected to arrive in Spain on Boxing Day, according to Health Minister Salvador Illa.  He added that it would be distributed “equitably” across the country with vaccinations likely to start on December 27.

The vaccine, already in use in the UK, was expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) during the previous week.  The Minister said Spain expected to have 140 million doses which will be “more than enough” to immunise 15 to 20 million people by May or June, “and a very significant number by the end of the summer.”  The government previously said that the vaccination, which will be voluntary and free, will be administered at 13,000 points across the country which will include health centres and clinics.

The first phase of immunisation between January and March will target around 2.5 million  residents and staff of care homes, other healthcare workers and people with serious disabilities.  The second phase will cover April to June, followed by the third phase between July and September, although no decision has yet been announced on which groups will be vaccinated in the last two phases.

Andalucía has also announced plans to introduce a “Covid permit” which will be obligatory for anyone wishing to travel or to attend events.  President Juanma Morena the card would help to clarify who had been immunised and who had not.

Spanish workers who cross the border daily to work in Gibraltar were in line to be vaccinated as the Rock followed the UK timetable.  Over 9,000 Spanish nationals were amongst those who benefitted from the 35,000 doses sent to the British Overseas Territory last month.

In the week before Christmas, the Health Ministry announced that, after several days of increases, the 14-day cumulative figure of infections had exceeded the threshold of 200 per 100,000 inhabitants.  It added that the increase brought the Balearic Islands and the Basque Country into the “extreme risk” category.  The number of infections reported on December 16 was 11,078, the highest since November 26, and is being attributed to relaxations allowed during the long holiday weekend at the start of the month.  

On December 17, the figure for Andalucía was given by the regional authority as 136.7 per 100,000, and as Christmas approached it was announced that infection levels across most of the province of Málaga had fallen and that all but one its six health districts would be on alert level 2.  The exception was the area around Ronda which would be the more restrictive level 4.

After King Felipe was forced into self-isolation in late November, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was amongst a number of European leaders who found themselves in the same situation last month.  The news followed an announcement on December 17 that the French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for Covid-19.  Sánchez had lunch with Macron in Paris three days earlier during events to mark the 60th anniversary of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

As the New Year started, restrictions on bars and restaurants remained in force throughout Andalucía forcing businesses to close at 6.00pm, although in late December it was announced they could reopen between 8.00pm and 10.30pm.  However, cafés and ice-cream parlours were permitted remain open between 6.00pm and 8.00pm provided that they did not serve alcohol. 

The overnight curfew was reduced by two hours, now from 11.00pm to 6.00am, although restaurants could make home deliveries until 11.30pm on orders placed before 10.30pm.  This set of measures was intended to be in place until January 10.

The hospitality sector, which gives work to over a quarter of a million people in Andalucía, has protested loudly about the measures, and has called for an end to the “constant mistreatment of bar, restaurant and nightlife businesses.”  The trade association Horeca has called the two-hour alcohol ban from 6.00pm “ridiculous” while workers have been staging protests and calling for the resignation of regional president, Juanma Moreno.