Local Daily News 7th January

The Ministry of Health accelerates the vaccination of people between 50 and 59 years old due to the increase in admissions to ICUs

The Ministry of Health has decided to intensify the administration of the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, summoning people over 50 years old even this Sunday. “The immunization campaign is going to remain active both this Friday and during the weekend, and next week paediatric vaccination will also be resumed in schools,” they emphasize from the department directed by the minister Ana Barceló.

This Sunday in particular, the General Hospital of Alicante will continue to vaccinate people always previously summoned by SMS, and on Saturday the vaccination activity is also maintained both in this health department and in those of the Hospital de la Vila Joiosa, the Hospital de Sant Joan and the General University Hospital of Elche. “Once the immunization of these people from 50 to 59 years of age has been completed, the Ministry of Health will begin to summon those over 40 to also administer the booster dose,” she added.

The rate of vaccination of the Community in the third doses, for the last incorporated age group of 50 to 59 years, places it the fourth autonomy by the queue according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health. In this sense, from the Ministry they specify that these doses have been advanced in some health departments due to the particularities of the population, the profile of the patients and their geographical dispersion, as is the case of Elda, Orihuela and Sant Joan. “The rest will start with this age group from next week,” they specify from the Ministry of Health.

Doctors who work at the ICU, in the critical units of the Alicante and Elche hospitals, coincide in pointing out that the current profile of those admitted for coronavirus is precisely focused on those over 55 years of age without a third dose and with some previous pathology or disease, such as obesity or serious respiratory problems, although they have not yet noticed an increase in the volume of affected people. “The change introduced by the omicron variant on the majority profile in ICUs is, in short, the decrease in admissions, and more than half are men over 55 years of age and with some degree of obesity,” says José María Núñez from the Hospital of Elche.

The professor and specialist in infectious diseases, Félix Gutiérrez, head of Internal Medicine in Elche, warns that what is expected is that the omicron variable will begin to predominate over the delta, but not so much at the hospital level. However, he emphasizes that “we must not think that omicron is harmless and not very serious, because underlying diseases can have consequences.” In recent days, an average of four people with pneumonia, among other conditions, are entering the wards. “We cannot trust that omicron is lighter and has no impact,” he insists.

He agrees that half of those admitted are between 55 and 65 years old who, although vaccinated, lack the third dose and have some decompensation due to another disease. Those under 50 years of age at the Hospital de Elche make up a small proportion of the income group, approximately 10%, and are both immunized and non-immunized.

The person in charge of infectious diseases at the Hospital de Sant Joan, Pachi Jover, also states that most of the admissions are  among those over 50 and the 60, but considers that the proportion of those infected by the delta variant is still the majority . “Maybe in a few weeks we will see the change,” he says.

From the General ICU of Alicante, José Miguel Mataix adds foreign patients from countries with lower vaccination rates to the profile of those admitted, without losing sight of those vaccinated with a previous pathology. The doctor deeply regrets that there are still unvaccinated people who, once admitted, excuse themselves stating that they were afraid that the dose would be wrong for them. Precisely, to attract this population, the Ministry of Health has implanted the vaccine without an appointment, exclusively for these cases.

Power companies agree to extend contracts to contain prices

The power companies have agreed to extend the fixed-price contracts signed by domestic and industrial customers for two years before the cost increase began, so that the increases that have been registered continue to be unaffected. The sector also attributes the current rise to the rise in the price of gas, which has multiplied by seven, and to the compensation for CO2 emissions.

Power companies have produced a report related to the rise in the price of energy. In it, they highlight that 80% of the electricity is sold to domestic and industrial customers through term contracts and at a fixed price, signed before the price escalation, so that, they assure, they are not affected by market variations. They have even seen their bill lowered thanks to the reduction of taxes and charges. In this sense, they underline that the companies in the sector have committed to maintaining and extending the prices of these contracts for two years.

They also emphasize that the only ones affected by the price rises are the clients covered by the voluntary price for the small consumer or PVPC, which represent 11% of consumption, and the large clients who have preferred to pay a price indexed to the pool, instead of a fixed price, which represent 10%.

The companies also carry out an analysis of the reasons why the price of electricity has increased. Thus, they refer to the economic recovery, which has increased the Asian demand for liquefied natural gas, which has raised world market prices and has made less gas available for imports to Europe. Also, they add, there has been a drop in gas inventories, which are 20% below the previous year and 18% below the average of the last five years.

Likewise, earlier arrivals of cold weather in the European Union have caused extraction to accelerate 10% over the previous autumn, and gas demand has increased by 5% in the EU as a whole. Added to this situation, they stand out, are the geopolitical tensions between Belarus, Poland and Germany, the growing pressure between Russia, Ukraine and NATO, and the Algerian-Moroccan conflict, which has reduced Russian gas inflows by 20%. The electricity companies also underline that the price of CO2 is at record highs after multiplying by three in one year, due, among other factors, to the results of the last climate summit.

The Torrevieja Hospital is forced to open the ICU reinforcement beds to take on covid patients

The Torrevieja University Hospital has been forced to expand the beds of the Intensive Care Unit – up to 18 beds – with some of those available in the Post-anaesthetic Recovery Unit due to the care pressure experienced by the health department for seriously ill people with coronavirus, as sources have been able to confirm.

The number of severe covid patients has been increasing gradually in recent weeks. Initially slowly, week after week, beginning in late November, and at a higher rate since mid-December. The department of Torrevieja has gone from assuming 3 patients on the 15th of December to nine – with the latest updated data that are from last Monday, the 3rd of January. The same data indicated that the total number of patients admitted for the virus, including those hospitalized in the ICU, was 46. The same sources indicated that both in the number of admitted and in the number of patients requiring intensive care, there is a high proportion of non-vaccinated.

The expansion with beds of the Post-anaesthetic Recovery Unit, which in an ordinary health situation is dedicated to the recovery of patients after surgery, is produced by the increase in covid patients, but especially to guarantee health care in the best conditions to all patients that require intensive care for other pathologies. And it has occurred in the hospital in the first wave of the pandemic and in January 2021.

On the other hand, the health department convened two vaccination days without prior appointment at the university hospital itself on the 4th and 5th of January. Although the attendance was not as massive as in previous calls in La Zenia Boulevard or the center itself, more than 1,800 people attended the first day. Most of them European and British foreign residents. Part of the inoculations were from users of the department called for the third booster dose. An army team is working in the area together with the health workers to carry out this work to vaccinate against the covid.

The province's economic sectors warn that the crisis will not subside until the end of the year

For many months the economic sectors of the province have tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the truth is that for the moment it is still a slight glow. They all agree when it comes to pointing out that the year that has just started is still going to be tough, with a particularly complicated first semester due to skyrocketing inflation, as well as high energy and raw material costs. The uncertainty about the evolution of the coronavirus also does not help to see the future with much optimism. With all this, they warn that the crisis, if everything goes in the right direction, will not subside until the end of the year.

Almost two years have passed since the pandemic broke out, and since then all the announcements of the return to normality have been failing, because the coronavirus is resisting. Most of the province’s economic sectors have suffered, to a greater or lesser degree, the impact of the health crisis, and the recovery has not yet come. This has been shown by the latest unemployment data, since Alicante continues to have 8,300 more unemployed than in 2019, ranking at the bottom of the recovery of employment in Spain, which has returned to the figures of 2007.

One of the factors that explain the peculiar situation of this territory in relation to that of the country as a whole is the dependence on the service sector, precisely the one that has been most affected by the covid restrictions. At the top is tourism, which despite improving its numbers, has closed 2021 with a turnover 60% lower than it had before the pandemic. And the future, from the outset, is not very promising. The general secretary of the Hosbec hotel management association, Nuria Montes, warns that “together with those of last winter, we are now going to face the two hardest months since the pandemic began, to the point that in Benidorm, for example, at the end of this week half of the hotels will close, because occupancy levels are very low.”

From there, uncertainty is what predominates in the sector. “We don’t know,” she emphasizes, “what will happen. Our forecast is that we can begin to work with a certain normality in the face of the Fallas and Easter campaigns, and still with a clear predominance of the Spanish client, because the scenario in the international context is still even more complicated. From there, if the virus respects us, we hope that by the end of the year we can already reach some figures, not the same as those of 2019, but like those of 2015, which would already be an improvement.”

Montes also refers to the high costs that hotels, bars and restaurants are having to face. “Personnel spending is in first place, food and beverages second, and energy third. The last two have shot up, and in terms of personnel, right now we have open collective bargaining, and it is to be expected that the unions will focus their demands on the salary issue, “she emphasizes.

With all these factors, the representative of the hotel management association emphasizes that “we are not, of course, in a scenario to impose tourist taxes. I insist that our main client, right now, is Spanish, and in that field we have a lot of competition from destinations within the country. So a tax of this type, without a doubt, would make us less competitive.”

Carlos Baño, president of the Alicante Federation of Commerce (Facpyme), shows that this is another of the sectors that has suffered the most virulence from the onslaught of the crisis. This sixth wave has been added to the restrictions to combat the virus since the pandemic began, “which has had an impact on sales and has also led to many cancellations in the hospitality industry, so that it has not been possible to take advantage of Christmas as was expected”.

Baño highlights that “in the towns where promotions have been made with purchase vouchers, sales levels similar to those of 2019 have been achieved, but not in the rest. And the bad thing is that next year is going to be worse, among other things, because loans will have to be repaid, and there will be businesses that will not be able to cope with that.”

The industry sector, on the other hand, has been able to weather the pandemic more adequately, but rising energy, transportation and raw material costs are taking a toll on companies. Footwear is the one that has had the worst time, as has happened with all sectors related to fashion. The president of the national and Valencian employers’ associations, Marián Cano, points out that “we have seen greater consumption during this Christmas season, but there is still a lot of uncertainty in the environment. We depend a lot on the evolution of the pandemic and social activity, so, with everything going well, we will not recover our billing levels until the end of the year.”

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