Local Daily News 6th January

Pharmacies will report positive antigen tests directly to the Ministry of Health

Starting next week, the pharmacies that voluntarily join the Ministry of Health’s project will communicate new covid infections directly to the health system. The system, voluntary for both users and pharmacies, consists of transmitting through a computer link the positive results of antigen tests carried out in the pharmacy itself.

The initiative that the Ministry of Health is finalizing these days with the official colleges of pharmacists of the three provinces, will allow the result of the antigen test carried out within the pharmacy to be communicated directly to the public health system, which will be fully valid and will alleviate the burden suffered by Primary Care professionals.

The president of the Generalitat himself, Ximo Puig, announced the new system after the last meeting held with the Minister of Health, Ana Barceló, this Wednesday, with the premise of its launch next week as of the notification from the Ministry of Health.

For pharmacies to be able to register and notify the public health system directly of the results of these tests, if they are positive, they must be done in person at the pharmacy itself and users must voluntarily consent to provide personal data so that they are informed.

After the agreement signed with the official associations of pharmacists, the president adds that all pharmacies that wish to do so can join the initiative voluntarily as well, thereby contributing to “reducing the current healthcare pressure in Primary Care”, the main objective for the implementation of this novel system.

The president of the Alicante College of Pharmacists, COFA, Andrés García Morgans, has sent a letter to all pharmacies to report this. In his letter, he indicates that, together with the Ministry of Health, “we are planning the collection of data from antigen test results in pharmacy offices” and announces the procedure for “all pharmacies that want to participate”.

With this collaboration, the Health Department will immediately control the positive results to follow up on the cases, without the patient having to contact the health centre to request the corresponding appointment with their family doctor. That is why the new method should help alleviate the burden suffered by Primary Care centres.

The same system will help reduce the volume of PCR tests that currently adds pressure to health centres, because users come to confirm the results of the tests. Health departments with a high population volume, such as those of the General Hospital of Alicante or the Hospital of Sant Joan, are overwhelmed by the demand for PCR tests.

In the tent set up by the General Hospital in the old heliport alone, an average of more than a thousand people have been assisted every day since the holidays started, all of them by appointment so that the corresponding PCR test is carried out and continuously from 9 in the morning until 8:00 p.m.

From the aforementioned department, they indicate to questions from this newspaper that there are times of demand peaks that are “unaffordable”, and force long queues until they can be attended, despite the fact that health personnel have multiplied by four to reduce waiting.

On the other hand, from the Association of Mutual Insurance Companies for Work Accidents in the Community, AMAT, they show solidarity with the health personnel and in turn request that the work leave and discharge reports, which have multiplied by four in the last month, be unified in a single medical act that reduces this task in health centres, where they spend most of the consultation time on these procedures in the last weeks.

The mutuals, aware of the “tsunami of casualties” that the omicron variant is causing – more than 49,000 people in the Community last month, which is 427% more than the previous month – show their concern about the collapse of the health centres.

The Community is in the queue for third doses from 50 to 59 years and below the average for 60 to 69

The rate of vaccination in the Community continues to lag as immunization progresses by age group for the third booster dose. Among the last age group incorporated by the Ministry of Health, from 50 to 59 years old, barely 30.07% of this population has been vaccinated, which places the Community with even worse rates than those presented by Ceuta and Melilla, which occupy the last places in most age groups in vaccination rate.

Only neighbouring Murcia, Aragon and Andalusia are slower in this sense, despite the efforts of certain health departments which have established marathon daily vaccination schedules, except for holidays but including Saturdays, to try to reach most of the population as soon as possible with the booster dose.

The best-situated autonomy, the Galician, is almost sixty points away from the Valencian, with up to 88.61% of its population aged 50 to 59 years vaccinated with the third dose; while the national average, with 67.35 vaccinated, is also thirty-seven points away from the Community.

In the province, the department of Elda, the first to start the vaccine for those aged 50 to 59 years this week, along with eight others from the rest of the Community, has joined the Sant Joan Hospital, which has given around 2,000 third doses daily between the skylight and the beaches community centre dependent on the Cabo Huertas health centre.

Appointments, via SMS, arrive without a fixed time for most of the age group and queues are generated at peak times, until noon and late afternoon. This department has launched messages for those born after 1965, from 58 years of age, and as the pace advances, they will continue to call others, as indicated by those responsible. “Those who had the Janssen are now practically all vaccinated and those vaccinated with Astrazeneca continue to come,” they indicate.

In Elche, regarding the vaccination protocol for people over 50 years of age, the health department of the General Hospital is being immunized in El Toscar with new doses to those who had previously received those of Janssen or Astrazeneca and the rest of the population is being vaccinated in health centres by appointment. From the health department of the Hospital del Vinalopó they inform in turn that the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health are being followed, so the population is being called according to the corresponding age group.

Regarding the vaccination of people over 60 years of age, the Community does not reach the national average either. The 81.72% of vaccinated that the latest report of the ministry dated this Wednesday does not reach the average of 84.1% and places it ninth in the table among the 19 autonomies. Regarding those over 70 years of age, the average is 88.6% and Health has vaccinated 91.11%, which places the Community with the sixth highest volume of immunization among the elderly.

Law change sees pets in Spain considered sentient beings, with welfare taken into account should a couple separate

From Wednesday, animals will be considered in Spain to be sentient beings, meaning that they can no longer be seized, mortgaged, abandoned, mistreated or removed from one of their owners in the case of a separation or divorce. These changes are now in force under Spanish law and modify three pieces of legislation: the Civil Code, the Mortgage Act and the Civil Procedural Act.

These are not the only changes in the pipeline, however. The junior partner in the coalition government, Unidas Podemos, has had a draft animal welfare law prepared since October, and is hoping to see it approved in the coming months. That legislation includes more resounding measures, such as a ban on putting animals down without justified cause, a veto on the use of wild animals in circuses, and a ban on selling pets in stores. What’s more, a planned reform of the Criminal Code in Spain is due to make the punishment for animal abuse harsher. This battery of measures is aimed at changing Spaniards’ relationship with animals.

Among the new measures that are in force from today are regulations over shared custody of animals should a couple separate. For example, a judge will be able to modify the conditions of an animal’s care when necessary, as well as establishing how the costs of the pet should be covered between the two parties, and even deciding on its destination should there be no agreement.

What’s more, judges will be able to limit parents’ access to children in cases of separation should they have mistreated their pets, either as a form of vicarious violence or gender violence in order to control or victimize their ex-partner or offspring.

Pets can also now be included in wills. But if they are not, they will be handed over to inheritors who reclaim them. If this is not possible, they will be given to either an administrative body or centre that collects abandoned animals, until the inheritance procedures can be established. If none of the heirs want to take charge of them, the administration can hand them over to a third party for their care and protection.

The new legislation states that if anyone finds a lost animal, they should be handed over to their owner or the person in charge of their care, unless there are indications of abuse or abandonment, which must be communicated to the relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, the modification to the Mortgage Law excludes farm or industrial animals, as well as pets, from mortgages, while the change to the Civil Procedural Act prevents pets from being seized to cover unpaid debts.

Nuria Máximo, the director of the Professorship of Animals and Society at the Rey Juan Carlos University, believes that these changes reflect “how society is changing its vision of animals,” and respects them more and more. “There has been a change in the sensitivity of the population in terms of the way we treat animals, above all those that we live with. If you ask anyone they will know that their pet is not a thing, but the law did not reflect this until now, which is why there could be these absurd situations such as the ability to seize a horse,” she explains.

Animal protection associations see these reforms as very positive. Nuria Menéndez de Llano, the director of the Observatory for Animal Justice and Defense, which was behind the collection of signatures that preceded the current changes, believes that it is “right for this anachronism to be corrected.” “For them to be recognized as sentient beings is historic,” she continues. “Before they were reduced to the status of a thing, and now the law recognizes them as living things, with the ability to think and feel.”

The lawyer points out that with these changes, Spain is following in the footsteps of other European countries – such as France, Germany, Switzerland and Portugal – but with more advanced legislation. “It’s an intense reform, and one that is far reaching.”

The draft animal protection law from Unidas Podemos is due to reach the Cabinet in the coming weeks, before it begins to make its way through the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, over the course of this year.

The text is focused on pets, and will, among other measures, seek to avoid animals being put down without just cause – the effect of this would be to avoid the deaths of animals who end up in shelters and are not adopted by anyone.

Currently, between 150,000 and 300,000 animals are left abandoned in Spain every year. The draft law aims to combat this situation, by creating an animal protection registry, as well as another registry of people who work with them. There will be a third list of people who have been banned from possessing animals.

Two of the more controversial elements of the future law include the prohibition of leaving a dog without supervision for more than 24 hours, as well as the elimination of the list of dangerous dogs. José Miguel Doval, the president of the Spanish Royal Canine Society, believes that the supervision of dogs is difficult to monitor. “Animals should not be left alone, but trying to establish such strict criteria will be difficult to apply apart from when it is reported,” he says.

As for dangerous dogs, Doval is in favour of the future plan. “The current legislation is unfair,” he says. “Condemning a dog from birth, just because of its breed, to always have to wear a muzzle and a tighter leash is not acceptable. The future law seems better for us than what was there before.”

The other measures included in the future law include the aforementioned ban on wild animals in circuses, as is already in place in certain regions, as well as an end to the sale of pets in stores. What’s more, the breeding and sale of animals by ordinary citizens will be prohibited, meaning that only professionals can do so, subject to guarantees of animal welfare. The breeding of animals by private citizens contributes to the high number of abandoned animals.

The legislation will also establish the obligation to sterilize pets if they live with other animals of a different sex, and with whom they could reproduce. The law will also promote awareness campaigns against animal abuse and abandonment.

The reforms underway to the Criminal Code, which will toughen up the punishment for animal abuse, are still at the very early stage of public consultation. This is a transparency step that comes ahead of the reform’s passage through Congress.



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