Local Daily News 9th January

The sale of houses to foreigners rebounds strongly and exceeds pre-covid levels since the summer

Foreigners join the boom in the province’s real estate market since the activity began to recover, after the months of confinement. At first it was national buyers who starred in a strong rebound in home sales from the second half of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, but as of the summer this trend has also consolidated among international customers, to the point that in the third quarter of the year, the figures before the pandemic were also exceeded in this sector.

In this way, between July and September 2021, foreign buyers acquired 5,917 homes on the Costa Blanca, according to the statistics of the Notarial College of Valencia, which represented an increase of 30.8% over the figures for the same period in 2020, but, above all, 19% more than those registered in the third quarter of 2019, before covid-19 made its appearance.

Of course, the figures are still somewhat below those registered in the pre-pandemic period – 14,078 operations between January and September 2021 compared to 16,311 in the same period of 2019 – due to the fact that the data from the first months were still very marked by the mobility restrictions that existed, the lack of connections at airports and the quarantines that many countries still applied, as the vice dean of notaries, Delfín Martínez, from Alicante, recalls.

“The latent demand has always remained and was very strong, what we thought would be more complicated was to formalize the operations. However, as restrictions were relaxed, there was a very powerful reactivation and the year was better than we expected,” says the general secretary of the Provincial Association of Promoters (Provia), Jesualdo Ros. The progression clearly shows it: from 3,410 purchases in the first quarter, it went to 4,751 in the second and the aforementioned 5,917 in the summer. A progression that continued until the appearance of omicron.

So much so that some real estate companies even assure that, between the increase in national sales and the recovery of sales to foreigners, at the beginning of autumn they broke their own marketing records, according to the CEO of Sonneil, Alfredo Millá.

In general terms, in the sector they consider that the province may even come out stronger after the pandemic. First, due to the psychological effect caused by long confinements, which lead to a greater number of Europeans thinking of buying a second home in areas with a better climate. But, in addition, many of these buyers now value the quality of the health system and public services of a country comparable to theirs, above the advantages – especially of price – of some competing destinations in the Mediterranean, such as Turkey, according to the general director of Marsol Internacional, Pedro Menárguez.

By nationality, data from the Notarial College indicate that the English, despite everything, remain the main foreign home buyers on the Costa Blanca, with a total of 982 acquisitions between July and September, practically the same as in the same period 2019, with most operations in the second-hand market and in the lower price segment, according to experts.

In second place are the Belgians, with 660 operations in the quarter, compared to 536 before the pandemic. An increase that has consolidated this market as the priority for builders, to the point that Provia has focused its last campaign on this country.

However, one of the most striking increases that have occurred is that of German buyers, who last summer signed the purchase of up to 507 homes on the Costa Blanca. A figure much higher than the usual – in 2019 they totalled 290 – which the promoters relate to the greater ease of reaching the province by car than to their traditional destination, the Balearic Islands.

Benidorm starts the year with roadblocks and a dozen million-euro works underway

Benidorm has started 2022 as it ended 2021: with a dozen million-euro works underway that keep streets closed and traffic restricted in some areas. The city is carrying out comprehensive actions in two neighbourhoods of the city, Els Tolls and the upper part of Colonia Madrid, but also in main roads such as Avenida Venezuela, Calle Ibiza or Esperanto. Works that aim to improve the mobility of these areas and that are added to others such as the expansion of the cemetery or the green ring of El Moralet.

To circulate through certain streets of the city these days is to do it between fences, machinery or construction materials, if you manage to pass get in with a vehicle. Because other streets are blocked by the work that is being carried out on them and the traffic is barely open only for the neighbours. Some works that, according to neighbourhood sources, are causing some inconvenience to the residents’ day-to-day lives, although they also suggest that the final result will compensate, “as with all works”, the days that have passed with discomfort.

This is the case of the neighbourhood of Colonia Madrid. There, in the upper part, the passage of machinery and noise has been constant for weeks. The Improvement and Accessibility project in the Foietes area is in full swing. Calle Caballero Rejoneador Ginés Cartagena is completely “up” and cut off from traffic and calle Estación is also along one part. These works belong to the Edusi (Sustainable and Integrative Development Strategy) and will involve an investment of about 600,000 euros. In addition to the streets in which they are working, they will act in Capitán Cortés and the Plaza del Prelado Antonio Bayona. This neighbourhood has a significant volume of residents and pedestrian traffic due to the proximity of three schools and the “Guillermo Amor” Sports City. Until now, no major interventions had been carried out, hence the neighbours, despite the inconvenience, applaud the works.

Also as part of the Edusi, there is work being carried out in Els Tolls. About 2 million euros to improve pedestrian mobility and accessibility in this neighbourhood, which is also residential. Right now they are fully working on Calle Portugal and its surroundings but they will reach England, Austria and avenida Andalusia. “We have the normal inconvenience of some works” but the action was demanded by the neighbours themselves: “It will allow modernizing the neighbourhood in fundamental aspects such as renewing the water network, telecommunications or the width of the sidewalks,” said the neighbourhood group. “But mobility will also be improved. Older people live here and it was necessary,” they added. All this “without reducing the number of car parks.”

In another area, the creation of a roundabout to improve traffic is also causing some headaches and some vehicle hold-ups. It is the avenida Venezuela where the project is valued at 500,000 euros. To this are added, outside the urban fabric, the works begun for the expansion of the cemetery of 3.1 million euros or the creation of the green ring of El Moralet, valued at another million. “The works are all on schedule,” said the councillor for Public Space and Works, José Ramón González de Zárate, who asked for “patience” for the inconvenience because the actions will be to improve these areas. Some specific street blocks are added, such as on Avenida del Mediterráneo where the “tecnohito” is being installed. Thus, work is also being carried out on Avenida Marina Baixa or Marina Alta and Calle Esperanto or Ibiza.

2021 was the start of major works but 2022 will not be left behind: “we have a dozen major actions for the next few months.” Among them, million-dollar works such as the change of LED lights in practically all neighbourhoods, Avenida Montecarlo, the renovation of the Paseo de Levante catenary or the Poniente wooden walkway. And as major projects, Benidorm has other pending Edusi projects such as the remodelling of the bullring, also to start this year. And to them is added the hostel in the Séquia Mare park, the Aula del Mar or the Emilio Ortuño road. And as investments by other administrations: the Beniardà avenue underpass, one of the main entrances to Benidorm, which aims to improve circulation and end traffic jams in this area.

New antiviral drugs reduce ICU admissions in hospitals in the province of Alicante

Along with the effectiveness of the vaccine, hospitals in the province point to the application of new antiviral drugs, used only on a case-by-case basis and in immunosuppressed patients, as one of the main reasons why ICU admissions are not increasing despite the high rate of infections.

Exactly a year ago, the number of patients admitted to ICUs throughout the province was 72 and this Friday, the 7th of January, 375 days later, the number of patients admitted to critical care units is practically the same, 74, while those infected are ten times more, 10,116 compared to the 1,356 infected that the statistics showed on the same date last year.

“Intervention with antiviral drugs in immunosuppressed patients admitted to the ward is being incorporated into the protocols, which reduces the severity of the disease and at the same time the probability that they will be admitted to the ICU,” explains Dr. Félix Gutiérrez, head of the unit of Internal Medicine at the General Hospital of Elche.

The treatment of covid patients in the hospitals, says the doctor, has improved a lot since the pandemic started and is what, together with the massive vaccination, is keeping hospital services for patient care from overflowing.

The new drugs help prevent cases from becoming more serious when intervening in advance, although the hospitals consulted specify that the use of these immunomodulators has not become widespread, which are used only in the most specific clinical cases and always at the discretion of the team doctor who is the one who does the detailed follow-up of each patient.

“Some of these drugs are already available, but the newest ones are going to be used progressively depending on the basis of the disease that each patient presents and case by case, because their use is approved in certain circumstances, although they are given priority for immunosuppressed people,” specifies Dr. Gutiérrez.

This would also explain why the high impact that this sixth wave is having in terms of Primary Care is not reflected in the last point of the chain, that of the deceased, which is being held back once again by scientific advances.

From mid-January of last year to mid-February, at the worst moment of the third wave and of the entire pandemic, the average number of daily deaths in the province was forty people while currently said average does not reach five deaths.

Some drugs that were most useful during much of the pandemic were precisely those that did not have antiviral effects against covid. However, the new antiviral medications could mark a before and after in the evolution of the pandemic at the same level as vaccines, as they are beginning to see in hospitals in the province.

They are drugs that manage to alter the replication of the coronavirus and that among patients unable to produce their own antibodies achieve improvements to the point of avoiding their admission to the critical care unit. Otherwise it would be irreversible as a result of the initial severity of these cases because, beforehand, their ability to fight any type of infection is reduced.

Inside the Spanish lab seeking the definitive Covid-19 vaccine

One of the world’s leading experts on coronavirus, Luis Enjuanes, works out of an office no more than five square meters in size. On the second floor of the National Biotechnology Center (CNB) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in Tres Cantos, Madrid, he has a team of 16 people working in the laboratory outside his door, where the search for a vaccine that provides sterilizing immunity against the coronavirus began almost two years ago.

If there is one thing scientists don’t like, it’s answering the question most loved by journalists: “When could it (in this case, the vaccine) be ready?” There are so many factors that influence how research pans out that predicting its success often leads to mistakes. Initially, Enjuanes’ team thought they might have the vaccine by now. But there have been obstacles. At this point, “if everything goes to plan,” Enjuanes is speaking about one more year. “Luckily, vaccines are no longer as urgent as they were at the beginning of the pandemic,” he says.

For Enjuanes’ team’s vaccine to be worthwhile, it must contribute a characteristic lacking in those that already exist. This could be sterilizing immunity, meaning those who get the vaccine neither become infected nor infect others. The most effective way this can be administered is via a nasal application. “If you use intramuscular injection, either in the arm, in the thigh or in the buttock, it provides a systemic, internal immunity, which lasts for 20, 40, 60 years and a single dose is good. However, it is not what we need right now; what we need now is immunity that protects the mucous membranes,” he says.

The problem with intranasal vaccines is that getting them approved is complicated. Regulatory bodies subject them to strong safety measures, as they fear that some component of the drug might cross the blood-brain barrier – the one that protects the brain from harmful substances – and cause unwanted side effects.

Enjuanes maintains that this possibility is minimal and that there are other drugs that are applied through the nose without this happening. But since it is not “the health authorities’ preferred method,” they are working on two versions of the vaccine; one, intranasal and the other, intramuscular. “I am convinced that if they could administer the same Pfizer or Moderna vaccine intranasally, two doses would not be necessary,” he says. “And the people who got it would not get the virus. And if they did, it would not replicate and they would not pass it on to other people.”

In the race to launch the first effective vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and several other brands, such as AstraZeneca, were first over the finishing line. Janssen, which arrived a little later, had to provide something the others lacked, which turned out to be that it did not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures and it required (in principle) a single dose. Vaccines against Covid-19 will continue to evolve and adapt, bringing improvements, but there will no longer be the urgency that was there initially when it was imperative that something be found to put the brakes on an explosive pandemic ripping through an un-immunized global population.

There are more than 300 coronavirus vaccines currently being researched. Of these, 135 have reached the stage of being clinically tested on humans. Among the half-dozen that are being developed in Spain, the only one that has reached this stage has been developed by the pharmaceutical company Hipra. It is in phase II-B and is being tested on 1,000 volunteers to verify its safety and efficacy as a booster.

Enjuanes and his team aim to test their vaccine on people early next year. “The first and second [clinical phases] are economically very feasible even for our economy, our laboratory and our institution – the CSIC – because you can cover that with €4 million or €5 million,” says Enjuanes. “But phase 3, which involves up to 60,000 people, costs millions. And you can only do that in collaboration with a major company. We are in talks with a company that has a lot of scientific experience and great potential,” adds Enjuanes, who would be retired if it were not for the pandemic.

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