Free­dom at last!

“We were get­ting des­per­ate to go out for a cof­fee,” say Va­len­cia res­i­dents

Costa Levante News - - FRONT PAGE -

By Sa­man­tha Kett

MORE of the Va­len­cia re­gion opened up this week with res­i­dents in 58% of towns and vil­lages and all three pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals en­joy­ing new-found free­dom af­ter two whole cal­en­dar months stuck at home.

Un­til Mon­day, just 10 of the re­gion's 24 hospi­tal catch­ment ar­eas were on 'Phase 1' of 'un­lock­ing', with the oth­ers re­main­ing on 'Phase 0', a po­si­tion they shared with Madrid – Spain's worst-hit Covid-19 re­gion.

L'Horta Sud, Nord and Oest – the Va­len­cia city ' home coun­ties', cov­er­ing 43 towns – fi­nally came back to life with bars, restau­rants and ice-cream par­lours set­ting up their ter­races again, and most did opt to do so even though they can­not yet al­low cus­tomers in­side.

“The truth is, we were all get­ting des­per­ate to open again,” said Ri­cardo, owner of Avelina ice-cream shop in Tor­rent.

He only plans to open in the morn­ings for the present, mean­ing one of his two em­ploy­ees is still on 'ERTE', or tem­po­rar­ily laid off.

Cus­tomers were heard to say, “it's about time,” and “we were get­ting des­per­ate.”

Tor­rent has of­fered bars the chance to ex­pand their ter­races free of charge un­til lock­down is com­pletely over, and sev­eral towns across the prov­ince – Llíria (Camp de Túria), Llom­bai (Rib­era Alta) and Beni­faió (Rib­era Baixa) have an­nounced no 'ter­race tax' will be charged un­til the end of the year. Nearly all shops in the three Horta dis­tricts opened on Mon­day to queues of cus­tomers.

Other parts of the prov­ince now on their fifth day of be­ing able to go out for a cof­fee or pop to a shop are the two Rib­eras, to the south of Va­len­cia; the Camp de Morve­dre north of Va­len­cia, the cap­i­tal of which is Sa­gunto, all of Va­len­cia city, and the parts of the Camp de Túria to its west which came within its hos­pi­tals' catch­ment ar­eas.

By Dave Jones and Alex Watkins THE VA­LEN­CIA govern­ment re­vealed on Tuesday evening that they have opted not to ap­ply for phase two sta­tus of the govern­ment’s exit plan – de­spite stat­ing at the week­end that they were hop­ing to move for­ward.

Pro­gres­sion from phase one on Mon­day (May 25) to the next stage would have brought in­creased free­doms for busi­nesses and res­i­dents, in­clud­ing the use of the in­te­ri­ors of bars and restau­rants.

The health­care au­thor­i­ties de­fended their de­ci­sion, stat­ing that there had been an in­crease in coron­avirus in­fec­tions in the 10 health­care ar­eas granted phase one sta­tus on May 11.

In Ali­cante prov­ince these were Ori­huela, Tor­re­vieja, Ma­rina Baixa, Dé­nia, Al­coy and Elda.

Deputy di­rec­tor of epi­demi­ol­ogy, Her­melinda Vana­clocha ex­plained that the ‘ba­sic re­pro­duc­tion rate’ of the dis­ease had gone up from 0.66 to 0.85 in these ar­eas.

“This in­crease has oc­curred since the 10 de­part­ments went into phase one so we think it is pru­dent to study the evo­lu­tion which oc­curs in the re­main­ing 14 de­part­ments which went into phase one on May 18,” she said.

Re­gional coun­cil­lor for health Ana Barceló noted: “A lot of thought went into this de­ci­sion and we opted to come down on the side of cau­tion.

“Our prin­ci­pal obli­ga­tion is to pro­tect the health of our peo­ple.”

Phase one – all to­gether now

Health­care de­part­ments ceased to be the ‘zone of ref­er­ence’ on Mon­day (May 18) for the govern­ment exit plan in the Va­len­cia re­gion.

It is now based on prov­inces (Ali­cante, Va­len­cia and Castel­lón) as was orig­i­nally en­vis­aged by PM Pe­dro Sánchez when he out­lined the exit plan in April. This means that res­i­dents can travel any­where in their prov­ince to use ho­tels and ac­cess other ser­vices per­mit­ted in phase one.

The health min­istry gave the green light last Fri­day (May 15) for the re­main­ing 14 health­care de­part­ments to pass into phase one and join the 10 zones which en­tered this stage on Mon­day (May 11), mean­ing that the whole of the re­gion is now in the same phase.

Virus ‘de­tec­tives’

Ef­forts to con­tain the virus dur­ing the de­es­ca­la­tion process will fo­cus on early de­tec­tion of cases and trac­ing any peo­ple they may have had con­tact with, ex­plained re­gional pres­i­dent Ximo Puig.

To as­sist pri­mary at­ten­tion health work­ers and make this trac­ing ‘as thor­ough as pos­si­ble’, an ad­di­tional 1,210 peo­ple are be­ing hired.

Health coun­cil­lor Ana Barceló told the re­gional par­lia­ment they had been able to carry out trac­ing from the first con­ta­gion on Fe­bru­ary 25 un­til March 14, the start of the state of emer­gency.

But this was only pos­si­ble in 254 cases (17,73% of the to­tal), for whom they iden­ti­fied 559 close con­tacts of which 36.5% also tested pos­i­tive for the coron­avirus, ac­cord­ing to the re­port sent by the re­gional health depart­ment to the min­istry for health. In health de­part­ments around the re­gion well over 90% of new cases were not con­tacts of pre­vi­ously con­firmed cases so it was not pos­si­ble to con­firm who they had caught it from.

Sra Barceló added: “Our goal is to achieve the best pos­si­ble trac­ing of all the con­ta­gions which oc­cur dur­ing the exit pe­riod.”

Mur­cia

Mur­cia re­gional govern­ment has re­quested phase two sta­tus for the whole re­gion – ex­cept Totana mu­nic­i­pal­ity from Mon­day (May 25) – with some re­stric­tions to re­duce the risk of in­fec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the re­gional govern­ment, meet­ings and gath­er­ings will re­main lim­ited to 10 peo­ple – not 15 – and out­door cul­tural events will be lim­ited to 100 peo­ple.

Beaches

The Va­len­cia govern­ment is be­lieved to be ne­go­ti­at­ing with the min­istry for health over in­creased us­age of the beaches to al­low peo­ple to swim in the sea.

Pres­i­dent Puig said they are draw­ing up ‘rec­om­men­da­tions’ for town halls so they can en­sure the beaches can be en­joyed safely.

They were asked to take part in a video con­fer­ence yes­ter­day (Thurs­day) to hear the govern­ment’s plans for ‘se­cu­rity pro­to­cols’ for beaches, which ‘are due to be ap­proved in the com­ing days’.

Beaches are just for ex­er­cise ­ at the mo­ment

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