Local Daily News 3rd December

The Government allocates 42 million to lower the bills of the fields and generate water for irrigation

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will allocate more than 42 million euros to modernize the irrigation systems in the south of the province of Alicante in order to make them sustainable. This injection will allow the construction of the salinized water regeneration plant to incorporate up to 15 cubic hectometres of water from El Hondo.

With this last investment, the Riegos de Levante water treatment plant project would finally go ahead, which a year ago was blocked when the contract with the company was terminated. Along the same lines, three photovoltaic plants will also be built to increase water resources.

This was the great package that was announced this Thursday in the plenary hall of Elche and that will be in charge of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan with European funds. To materialize the aid, an agreement was signed that exceeds 42 million, including VAT, between Francisco Rodríguez Mulero as president of Seiasa – public company of the Ministry of Agriculture – and the president of the General Irrigation Community of Levante Margen Izquierda del Segura, Javier Berenguer. The Government delegate in the Valencian Community, Gloria Isabel Calero was also present at the signing and explained that the central government has doubled the investment for the Community in 2022, so “there is a commitment to reuse water and we are at a time of structural changes”.

The mayor of Elche, Carlos González, pointed out that this was a historic day for the Camp d’Elx due to the benefits that these infrastructures will bring to Elche farmers and Javier Berenguer, from Riegos de Levante, said that these new systems will be able to make reasonable water prices to secure farmers’ jobs.

These irrigation modernization works will affect 23,000 hectares and will benefit 18,200 irrigators in Elche, Alicante, El Campello, Crevillent, Mutxamel, Orihuela, Sant Joan and Santa Pola.

The speakers explained that the key will be to improve water efficiency by allowing the use of reclaimed water for irrigation; and energy, by enabling self-consumption photovoltaic solar installations that save costs for irrigators and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

There will be four lines of action. Thus, the start-up of the regenerative treatment plant for the water, coming from the Segura river and from the “azarbes”, will make it possible to improve the quality of the water used in irrigation.

To reduce energy dependence, a self-consumption solar photovoltaic installation will be built to supply the plant and the lifting stations of the general community of irrigators.

On the other hand, the regulation and integration of the reclaimed water from the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) into the hydraulic system of the general community has been planned, for which a system of pressure pipes will be installed.

Similarly, irrigation management will be improved through remote control systems that will allow the digitalization and telematic management of irrigation, according to Rodríguez Mulero, who in front of Seiasa highlighted that this contribution in the first phase represents 10% of the total that has been distributed throughout the national territory for what is “the agreement with the most effort in terms of irrigation of the recovery package”

The Government will assume up to 80% of the total works while the communities of irrigators and users that are the object of the action will contribute the rest.

One of the actions envisaged with this package of improvements to irrigation systems is the reuse of unconventional water, where it is planned to invest 7.5 million euros to provide infrastructure that allows it. For this purpose, the connection of the Rincón de León and Crevillent with a 200,000 cubic meter reservoir in Torrellano is contemplated.

The second leg will come with the regeneration of water through the Riegos de Levante plant and the cost has been calculated to be 16.5 million, which means that it represents about half of all the investment planned in this first phase.

Similarly, the installation of renewable energy with solar plants would cost 7.9 million, while giving way to new technologies for remote management would cost 5.7 million. This is only the estimate that Seiasa herself made of the four blocks pending execution.

Regarding deadlines, from this public company they pointed out that 2022 will be a key year so that all environmental permits and authorizations can be issued to be able to put out to tender the works. They hope, however, that by the second half of 2022 the execution of the photovoltaic plants can begin and that in 2023 they will work, although everything will depend on meeting the administrative deadlines.

Javier Berenguer, president of Riegos de Levante this Thursday summoned representatives of the Júcar and Segura Hydrographic Confederations to work together, as well as requested the support of local administrations and the regional secretary of Agriculture.

Unemployment in Spain falls by 74,381, the biggest drop for November since 2008

The Spanish labor market broke new records last month, thanks to the biggest fall in unemployment in the month of November and highest number of people in work since the current historical series began. For the ninth month in a row, the ranks of the unemployed fell, a downward trend that has never been seen in the statistics. November is usually a bad month for hiring, which traditionally picks up in December due to the approaching Christmas season. But that trend was bucked this year, and the recovery from the devastating Covid-19 pandemic appears to be continuing apace.

November saw registered unemployment fall by 74,381 workers compared to October, for a total of 3,182,687 unemployed – the lowest figure for this month of the year since 2008. The sectors that have most benefited from this improvement are agriculture (-6,072; -3.9%) and industry (-7,689; -2.9%), as well as the service sector (-48,528; -2.1%) and construction (-4,336, -1.7%).

Meanwhile, the number of people signed up to the Social Security system – considered a measure of official job creation – also rose in November for the third month in a row, when the data is analyzed without considering seasonal factors. The number of affiliates hit a new high last month of 19,752,358, up 61,768 on the previous month, and once again reaching figures that exceed those registered before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

There were also 2,021,546 new hires in November, which is the highest figure for this month since the current historical series began. Of these, 282,981 were indefinite contracts, 14% of the total – again, this is the highest figure on record for this category.

It is not, however, all good news for the Spanish economy. While the labor market continues to thrive, forecasts tell a different story. Yesterday, for example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, revised its predictions for growth downward, from 6.8% to 4.5% for this year, and from 6.6% to 5.5% for the next. The contrast between these pictures is of concern.

The word “historic” has been bandied about regularly regarding the monthly labor market figures by members of the coalition government, run by the Socialist Party (PSOE) with junior partner Unidas Podemos. “We are going to continue with a downward trend despite the month in which we are,” stated Deputy Prime Minister and Labor and Social Economy Minister Yolanda Díaz in the Congress of Deputies on Wednesday. Her optimism was mixed with surprise, given that the data is still good despite an economic context of continued uncertainty due to the pandemic.

Madrid reports first omicron infection with no connection to travel to southern Africa

The Madrid region today confirmed its third case of a Covid-19 patient infected with the recently identified variant known as omicron. Unlike the previous two, who had recently arrived from South Africa, this is the first to have no links to the country – which was the first to identify the variant – or indeed other nations in the south of Africa.

The patient in question is a 62-year-old man who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a press release from the Madrid regional government. In this case, the man “does not have a travel history, nor has had close contact with another person who has been in countries where this variant has been detected, as had happened in previous cases, and presented the first symptoms on November 29,” the statement continued. On Thursday the man was in isolation in his home, along with the person who lives with him, who was “in a precautionary quarantine.”

The public health authorities are investigating another two suspected cases of the omicron variant, “both with mild symptoms and also without a history of travel to risk countries.” Madrid confirmed the first case of the strain in Spain on Monday, and the second on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Balearic Islands confirmed a third case: a resident of Mallorca who arrived in Spain after traveling to South Africa. There are also two suspected cases in Catalonia.

The first case was a man who had arrived in Madrid from South Africa, with a layover in Amsterdam, on November 28. He is fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and displayed mild symptoms. He was placed in isolation and was being monitored by the health authorities, as were his close contacts from the flight that arrived in Madrid from the Dutch capital, a regional spokesperson explained on Monday.

A day later, a 61-year-old woman who is fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca arrived in Madrid from South Africa, having also passed through Amsterdam. After testing positive for the coronavirus via an antigen and PCR test, a sequencing process was also utilized given the country she had traveled from. She had “mild symptoms and is isolating and being monitored,” the regional government reported.

Since Saturday, the Covid-19 controls in Spanish airports have been stepped up. As well as a visual and temperature check on arrival – with testing carried out on the spot if there are any suspicions of infection – passengers arriving from risk countries must bring a negative coronavirus test with them, even if they have been fully vaccinated. This was not necessary until this weekend, after the alarm was raised about the potential risks of the new variant.

What’s more, the Health Ministry on Monday published an order obliging travelers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in Spain. The ministry announced yesterday that close contacts of domestic omicron cases will also have to isolate for 10 days.

The appearance of the omicron variant, first detected in South Africa a week ago, has health authorities across the world on alert. The scientific evidence on its potential danger is still very limited, but researchers have discovered that the strain contains more than 30 mutations. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it a variant of concern, meaning it could be more contagious, virulent or able to escape the protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines or the antibodies produced after recovering from the virus.

Admissions for bronchiolitis increase compared to other years and affect younger children

After a year 2020 in which viruses barely circulated, bronchiolitis has broken out in the province of Alicante in recent weeks, affecting a greater number of children than would be expected at this time of year and, above all, very young babies, according to different pediatricians.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, 19 children are admitted to hospitals in the province due to this disease, some of them in the neonatal ICU due to breathing difficulties.

“We are struck by the fact that it has been advanced compared to other years and especially as they are very small babies, under six months, which is something unusual,” says José Pastor, head of Pediatrics at the General Hospital of Elche. In this health center, three children remain in the neonatal ICU and two in the infant area. Three of the babies are less than a month old, “which requires respiratory support, either high-flow oxygen, or a mask, and we have even had to intubate a child.”

In the Sant Joan hospital, the same situation. “We have more admissions than would be expected at this time of year, with one or two a day,” says Raúl González, head of Pediatrics at this health center, where two children were hospitalized.

At the Alicante General Hospital there were four children admitted this Thursday, “and we are also surprised by the cases in babies so young, under three months,” explains Javier González de Dios, head of Pediatrics at this health center.

Bronchiolitis is a disease caused by a virus, which causes inflammation of the final part of the bronchi and affects the entire respiratory system. The main symptoms are that the child has a hard time breathing and coughs. Indirectly, the child stops eating because they get tired. The virus affects minors under two years of age, and above that age there is already talk of bronchospasm.

Why it is affecting children so young this year is not entirely clear. “The same thing is happening throughout Spain without us knowing why,” says Raúl González. In the opinion of this professional, the pandemic has changed everything a lot, “and one of the causes could be that there is more virus circulation due to the relaxation of protection measures.”

Another theory, as José Pastor points out, is that the mothers during pregnancy were very protected, with a mask, distance … “in this way they did not come into contact with the viruses and did not pass antibodies to the children through the placenta.” It is also common for many of the infections to occur between the siblings themselves.

Bronchiolitis usually appears in winter and always precedes the flu epidemic. Last winter there were no admissions due to this disease, thanks to anti covid measures. However, in summer, with the decline in many of these measures, the cases began to rise, much to the surprise of pediatricians, since it is unusual to admit children with bronchiolitis in the middle of summer.

Bronchiolitis is one of the pathologies that causes more admissions in children under two years of age and more visits to Primary Care pediatricians. In fact, according to Javier González de Dios, it is the main reason for hospitalization these days in the Pediatric area of ​​the General Hospital of Alicante. In health centers, a significant volume of consultations related to bronchiolitis are also being attended these days.

Bronchiolitis, as explained by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, is spread mainly by touching objects that are already contaminated with the virus (for example, toys, pacifiers, … in which drops of saliva or mucus with the virus usually remain) and then when children rub their eyes, nose or mouth. It can also be spread by inhaling infected particles from someone who is carrying the virus, that is, by breathing small droplets that the person with the virus generates when coughing or sneezing.

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