Local Daily News 13th November

The Elche company PLD Space presents the first Spanish space rocket

This Friday, the Elche company PLD Space presented in Madrid the first Spanish space rocket, the Miura 1, whose launch is scheduled for next year. It is a suborbital test vehicle of the company, which will be followed by the launch of the Miura 5 orbital rocket in a first commercial mission scheduled in 2024.

The presentation of the rocket manufactured by PLD Space took place in the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, and was presented by Ezequiel Sánchez, Raúl Torres and Raúl Verdú, company managers, who explained that the Miura 1 is the only Spanish rocket created for aerospace transport. A pioneering project in Europe that will place Spain among the small number of countries with the capacity to launch small satellites into space, essential for key sectors such as telecommunications, defense and scientific research.

The launch of this first suborbital test rocket will take place next year, while working on the manufacture of the Miura 5, a vehicle already in this orbital case, whose first commercial mission is scheduled for 2024.

The PLD Space project, which has the endorsement of numerous national and international institutions in the aerospace sector, as well as the support of different public administrations, has already achieved 36 million in investment for the development of its subsequent stages. In addition, the company has six contracts in place with space agencies around the world, placing it in a privileged position to become an international benchmark in space transportation to put small satellites into orbit.

PLD Space is a pioneering Spanish company in the aerospace sector and a benchmark in Europe in the development of reusable rockets, with a recognized prestige in the sector and a solid project that materializes in its launch vehicles: the Miura 1 suborbital and the Miura 5 orbital Launchers that will place Spain among the few countries with the capacity to successfully send small satellites into space.

With a decade of history, PLD Space plans to launch its Miura 1 prototype in the second half of 2022 and tackle its first real space transport mission with Mira 5 in 2024. The firm, based in Elche and with technical facilities in Teruel, Huelva and French Guiana, has already achieved more than 36 million investment to promote its new space project.

The province registers the highest number of suicides in the last 40 years

The first year of the pandemic has left a sad record in the province of Alicante with the number of suicides rising by 6%, according to the Death Statistics published this week by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). In 2020, 170 people took their lives in the province, compared to 160 the previous year. This figure is also the highest recorded since 1980, when the INE began keeping records.

The number of suicide cases has increased in all age groups, except among the population aged 80 to 89 years and between those aged 70 to 74 and 50 to 54 years, where numbers have decreased. In the whole of the Valencian Community the trend is different and deaths have decreased slightly, from 450 in 2019 to 440 last year. The vast majority of those who commit suicide are men, with a ratio of 133 in Alicante to 37 women.

In this way, suicide is the first external cause of mortality, ahead of traffic accidents, which last year caused 63 deaths in the province. In all the causes of death, between the ages of 15 and 40, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Alicante, only behind deaths caused by cancer.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of the population, especially the youngest, who are the ones who are suffering the most adapting to the new normal that the covid has brought. “We observe daily how suicide attempts have multiplied. These are cases that occur in younger kids, even 13 or 14 years old”, highlights Enrique Pérez, head of psychiatry at the General Hospital of Alicante. Apart from suicides and attempts, an increase in cases of anxiety, depression or eating disorders has also been detected.

The isolation imposed by the pandemic, the loss of social relationships and the worse economic situation derived from the virus are behind this worsening of the mental health of the population, according to Pérez.

The situation is such an emergency that the Ministry of Health announced in August a plan with urgent measures to try to reverse this trend. The plan contemplated the urgent hiring of 69 people to reinforce the psychiatric and psychological care devices of the Valencian Community, as well as the implementation in each of the three provinces of a day hospital, as well as specialized community intervention teams and many others for highly complex cases. However, three months after the presentation of this plan, nothing is known about these resources, which were supposed to start operating based on the budgets for this year that is about to end.

At the national level, in 2020 3,941 people have died by suicide in Spain, with an average of almost 11 people a day; 74% of them men (2,938) and 26% women (1,011). Thus, 2020 becomes the year with the most suicides recorded in the history of Spain since data is available (1906), according to the Observatory of Suicide in Spain of the Spanish Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide. These figures represent an increase of 270 deaths compared to 2019. It is the first time in Spain that there have been more than a thousand deaths from suicide in women. It is also the first time that Spain has reached 14 suicides of children under 15 years of age (7 boys and 7 girls), doubling the cases in 2019. In the province of Alicante, a child under 14 took their own life last year.

Experts optimistic Spain will avoid sixth coronavirus wave despite surge in cases across Europe

After a good start to autumn, with the best coronavirus indicators in more than a year, the positive trend in Spain has taken a turn. The national 14-day incidence rate fell to its lowest point in mid-October, with 40 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and since then, it has been slowly rising. 

As has been seen throughout the pandemic, the spike in cases has taken two weeks to be reflected in hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. Hospitalizations dropped to a record low on October 29, when 1,640 Covid-19 patients were recorded – a figure that now stands at 1,933. Meanwhile, in Spain’s ICUs, admissions reached their lowest point on November 5, with 386 patients. Since then, this figure has been fairly stable, with some small rises.

Despite the success of Spain’s Covid-19 vaccination drive – 88.9% of the over-12 population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry – there are growing concerns about the delicate situation in many other European countries. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have lower vaccination rates than Spain, on Thursday reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Fatalities for Covid-19 are also rising in these countries. The question many are asking now is if Spain is on the brink of a sixth wave.

“The situation in Europe is a bit scary and the data in Spain are not good, given the indicators are rising. But I would not call what is happening here a wave,” explains Quique Bassat, an epidemiologist and researcher at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) at the ISGlobal Institute in Barcelona. “The rise is not that explosive, the impact on the health system is not significant, and nor is it likely to be, thanks to the vaccines. It’s more of an uptick that is rising slowly and that we must monitor now to see how it evolves.”

José Miguel Cisneros, the head of infectious diseases at Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville, explains: “Cases are going to rise in Spain as well, but the situation is not going to be like what we saw before thanks to the protection achieved with the vaccines. The rise will be less and have less of an impact on hospitals. In this situation, it does not make much sense to talk about waves just based on the incidence rate, because it will never be over. Vaccines reduce infections a lot, but don’t prevent all of them. That’s why there will continue to be rises in cases just as there are with other coronaviruses that cause the common cold and that we don’t even monitor. Now is the time to shift the focus of the importance of the indicator and put it on hospitalizations and the ICU admissions.”

Experts say that the improvement in vaccination coverage, with respect to the previous waves, is reason to be confident that the indicators will not worsen too much. “In June, when the fifth wave began, we had two important weak points that we have now overcome,” says Clara Prats. “The younger population was not vaccinated [now nearly 80% of teenagers and the 20-29 age group are fully immunized], which allowed the virus to spread at great speed. And many people aged between 60 and 69 who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca still had not received the second dose, which significantly increased the number of serious cases and hospitalizations among them,” she explains, in reference to the 12-week interval between the first and second shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. “This is not going to happen again.”

In Spain, a large group of the population yet to be vaccinated is the under-12 population, who represent around five million people. So far, no Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for this age group, although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently studying whether to approve a child’s dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. But experts do not believe the under-12s will trigger a new coronavirus wave. 

Although there have been at least two significant outbreaks in schools recently – one in Getafe in the Madrid region, with at least 56 cases, and another in San Cugat in Barcelona, with more than 40 – the data available confirms that children play a minor role when it comes to spreading the virus. The most recent and complete data on this subject is from the Catalan regional government. This information shows that 82% of cases detected among children in early education centers (for students aged between three and six) since the beginning of the school year, and 78% of cases in primary school (from six to 12) did not infect any classmate or teacher.

In the past few weeks, Europe has turned into one of the global epicenters of the pandemic. According to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), countries in the north and east of the continent are recording the worst figures. In the United Kingdom, where face mask rules were relaxed in England in July, the number of daily Covid-19 fatalities recently exceeded 150. And in Germany, authorities reported 235 deaths on Thursday. The two countries have lower vaccination coverage than Spain – in both cases, 67% of the population is completely immunized, compared to 80% in Spain, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website.

“These percentage points of difference could be one of the determining reasons that explain what is happening,” says Cisneros. “We know that group immunity is inversely proportional to a virus’s capacity to spread and for some time, we have known that the 70% we initially set [for group immunity] was not enough and that we had to reach or exceed 80%. These points of difference are surely what is slowing down the circulation of the virus in Spain.”

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