Spain should stick to its two-dose vaccine strategy

Spain should stick to its two-dose vaccine strategy

Despite problems of supply, Spain is determined to stick to its current strategy of vaccination, prioritising second doses over first, unlike the UK. Columnist Sue Wilson explains why she believes that’s a good thing.
Based on recent arguments between the UK and the EU over vaccine supplies, nationalism has reared its ugly head again. The UK media focused on the EU’s threat to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and barely mentioned that prime minister, Boris Johnson, had threatened to do the same, in parliament, two weeks previously.

Thankfully, the EU’s mistake was quickly recognised, publicly acknowledged, and reversed. As a result, the EU is now promised supplies from UK factories, to arrive in the first quarter of this year. The irony is lost on Brexiters that the EU threatened the NI border for just five hours, while the UK did the same for five years.

Vaccine supply is an issue for many countries, although less so for the UK. Having approved the use of various vaccines ahead of other countries, the UK was early to sign contracts with vaccine producers. As a result, the UK has rolled out its vaccination programme at a staggering – and for once, actually “world-beating” – pace.

Last weekend, a record-breaking 600,000 people were vaccinated across the UK. This was a phenomenal achievement by any standard, and is thanks to the incredible dedication, planning and hard work of the NHS. I cannot help thinking: how many lives would have been saved by giving the NHS the contracts for other programmes, such as test and trace, rather than handing them to private companies with ties to the Conservative party, and no relevant experience.

Based on announcements about the vaccination programme in Spain, and being in Group 4, I anticipated receiving my first jab around Easter, the second dose by the end of April, and to be immune by the end of May. Although I’m disappointed by the delay, I’m relieved to hear that cancellations for appointments related to supply problems are for the first dose, and not the second.

While the UK boasts about its vaccination rollout, it doesn’t mention those people who are awaiting their second jab. The UK has made a strategic decision to delay the second vaccination for up to 12 weeks, going against scientific advice. The vaccine producers have recommended that the second vaccine is ideally delivered three weeks after the first. Although some leeway exists, it is recommended not to exceed 42 days between doses.

The UK government has unilaterally decided that doubling that time to 84 days is acceptable, safe, and effective, minus any scientific evidence. Every UK care home resident has now been offered their first vaccination, but many have had their second vaccination appointment postponed until further notice – including my elderly mother.

If we consider the picture re first and second doses, on January 30th, the UK had vaccinated 0.72% of the population with their two doses. On January 28th, Spain was close behind, with 0.54% of the population having received a second dose.

You can read the full article over at The Local

Has Covid changed the way we live our lives in Spain forever?

Has Covid changed the way we live our lives in Spain forever?

It’s been a year since the pandemic began to take hold in Spain. Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain considers how it has marked the way we live our lives and how it changes our hopes for the future.

No matter where you live or what you do, Covid has changed our lives. The same could be said of Brexit, but we knew it was looming and had some idea what to expect. We never saw Covid coming.

It’s over a year since reports of a dangerous virus first emerged from China. The world watched but took differing views of the level of danger or how to combat the spread. Over time, we watched in horror as the pandemic took hold, especially when it came closer to home. When we saw the devastating scenes from Italy – the death toll and overstretched hospitals – it began to feel very real and very scary.

With mixed emotions, we adapted to the strict safety measures introduced by the Spanish authorities. At first, those measures seemed heavy-handed. However, when compared to Britain’s less stringent approach, we started to believe that stronger measures were a necessary evil. Even when the UK eventually imposed a full “lockdown”, many of us in Spain suggested it was nothing of the kind. While we were prohibited even from taking a walk, Brits back home were exercising their right to, well, exercise!

 

Covid 19

The way we feel about Covid measures – and the actual virus – varies person to person. Our concerns may be based on a number of factors, including our age and our general outlook. Being shut indoors for weeks on end feels different to an introvert than to an extrovert. Being at home with your family is attractive to some yet stressful to others, particularly those with young children.

Lockdown measures worried many professionals working in mental health and domestic violence services. Being forced to stay indoors was sure to have a negative impact, especially on the most vulnerable in society.

The decisions being made by governments all over the world have attracted considerable scrutiny. They are making decisions we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, and unsurprisingly, there have been many mistakes. On the whole, the public have been reasonably forgiving when mistakes have been made – this is, after all, a new and devastating virus, and we are all learning how best to deal with it. What is unforgiveable is to witness governments – the UK in particular – repeating the same mistakes over and over and shirking any responsibility for their actions. Rather, it’s never their fault – it’s usually the fault of the British public.

You can read the article in full over at The Local

Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar

Britons in Spain will need to get used to life without Cheddar

Brexit means it will be difficult to source our favourite Cheddar, writes cheese-addict Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

As Brits across Europe adjust to a new, post-Brexit reality, the consequences of leaving the EU are gradually revealing themselves to the British public.

So far, most issues haven’t affected Brits living in Spain directly. Whether it’s cries of betrayal from the fishing industry, or businesses concerned re the bureaucracy – and cost – of exporting to Europe, the main impact has been felt by Brits in Britain, not those in Europe.   

However, we have experienced some teething problems of our own – especially related to travel and ordering goods from the UK.

This week, Dutch border guards had a joke at the expense of Brexit, confiscating sandwiches from British travellers. While many extremists jumped to the easy and false conclusion that EU countries are punishing Brits for Brexit, the answer was far simpler: they were applying EU law and border control. Taking back control of their borders, if you wis

 

You might not care a fig for post Brexit fishing policy, or EU companies being forced to collect VAT for the British government, but one thing the Brits do care about is good old British food!

The Dutch border incident highlighted the issues that British travellers will face should they attempt to import foodstuffs to any EU country. That includes bringing our favourite foods back from the UK.

You can read the article in full over at The Local.

How Brexit is delivering unpleasant surprises for Brits in Spain

How Brexit is delivering unpleasant surprises for Brits in Spain

Already a week into the New Year, Sue Wilson considers that aside from the large-scale losses brought by Brexit – freedom to live and work across the EU – it’s the smaller losses that are now causing concern.

Last week, as we bid goodbye to the worst year most of us could remember, we dared to hope that 2021 would be better. After all, it could hardly be any worse. Just one week in and our resolve is certainly being tested with plenty of fresh concerns to cause us stress.

Thankfully, with the ongoing Spanish Covid situation, we have reasons to be hopeful. Although cases and death rates remain a concern, they are falling, and compliance with government rules is generally high. By contrast, the UK continues to break records for the number of new cases daily, and that’s before the impact of Christmas mingling is assessed.

International travel has been problematic throughout the Covid crisis. For Brits, it has recently become even worse. This week, we have seen British nationals denied entry to Spain and other European countries, as border control officials questioned whether the travellers were valid EU residents with essential travel needs. Hopefully, with the swift intervention of Spanish authorities and the British Embassy, the problem has largely been resolved.

Many Brits in Spain are still struggling to get their affairs in order, and the lack of appointments for residencia and driving licence applications is contributing to stress levels. Add to that the continuing uncertainties surrounding Brexit, and it’s no surprise that we are still reeling.

TIE Example

Even after Brexit is supposedly all over, much remains unresolved, leaving room for unpleasant surprises. Although an oversimplified generalisation, it would be fair to say that those that voted to remain are less surprised than those that voted to leave. Many leave voters were expecting – indeed, were promised – that nothing would change. They were misled that our rights, freedoms and benefits would remain the same, regardless of Britain’s EU membership status.

With the Withdrawal Agreement agreed a year ago, it was clear that some things were going to change for the worse. However, the scale of change was unclear to many. Aside from the large-scale losses – such as our freedom to live, work or study in any EU country – the smaller losses are now causing concern.

With our travel prospects limited, we won’t immediately be aware of all the ways our lives will change. It is too soon to say how the sterling/euro exchange rate might be affected long-term. The pound is worth about the same today as it was a month ago, even despite a Brexit deal being agreed. Seems the markets didn’t think it was that good a deal after all.

You can read the full article over at The Local

What does 2021 hold for those in Spain who fought against Brexit?

What does 2021 hold for those in Spain who fought against Brexit?

After months of bluster, grandstanding and tedium, the UK and EU have finally agreed a Brexit trade deal.

Although it’s far from ideal, and even further from the best deal possible – the one we already had – it’s a great relief all round not be crashing over the proverbial cliff edge. It seems a bad deal really is better than no deal after all.

I could complain about what we’ve lost, but it won’t change the situation we are facing. Instead, my New Year’s resolution is to move past old arguments and concentrate on constructive battles. I don’t mean that I’ll forget or forgive what has been stolen from us, and I’m certainly not ready to “suck it up”. However, our Brexit journey isn’t over with the new deal, as negotiations will likely continue for years to come.

When Michel Barnier and Ursula von der Leyen announced that a deal had been struck, their overall tone was one of regret. By contrast, and entirely as predicted, Boris Johnson’s approach was celebratory and triumphal.

Never one to focus on the details, it’s quite possible our prime minister doesn’t understand all the intricacies of the deal he just signed. This was apparent in his response to press questions about friction-free trade. He claimed that the tariff-free deal had no non-tariff barriers, when in fact there are many barriers to trade. With the UK leaving the single market and customs union, those barriers will include a multitude of customs and regulatory checks at borders.

EU Nov

By contrast, the EU is keen on details and has added legal clauses to protect the integrity of the single market, and the EU itself. Based on its recent experiences, the EU knows that Johnson’s good faith cannot be taken at face value.  Legal protection is evident in the deal with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Should the UK attempt to diverge on human rights, the agreement will be “terminated on date of leaving ECHR”. Not for the first time, I’m grateful that our rights are protected by international statute, rather than UK law.

So, where does the current state of play leave campaign groups, such as Bremain in Spain? When the group was created on June 24th, 2016, our main aim was to stop Brexit. Obviously, we failed, but I don’t regret a single moment of that fight. The anti-Brexit campaign came close to securing a second referendum, and we know that we tried everything in our power.

It was sometimes a bitter struggle, but I’ll always remember the moments when we united with passion and hope. The feelings of camaraderie are still strong, as are the collective feelings of sadness, anger and disbelief.

With varying degrees of success, I have tried to understand the reasoning behind Leave voters’ decisions, but I’ve rarely felt that Remainers have been extended the same courtesy. The most vocal commentators are usually the extremists on both sides, but they don’t express the majority view.

You can read the full article over at The Local.

As the ‘moment of truth’ arrives our Brexit future is still uncertain

As the ‘moment of truth’ arrives our Brexit future is still uncertain

writes Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain

On Sunday evening, the last trade deal deadline passed without progress, leaving us none the wiser as to whether the UK will leave the EU with a deal in just a few days time.

Although I understood the attraction of Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” catchphrase – particularly to Leave voters – it never appealed to me personally. Had the prime minister come up with a “get a deal done” catchphrase, I might have been converted!

Let me be clear (to use a phrase nicked from a former PM): I’m not saying that I’ve become a Brexit fan; just that the Brexit negotiations have been interminable! Deadlines have come and gone. When the chances of a deal were described as “very, very difficult”, our patience wore very, very thin.

How many ways can politicians, or the media, say it’s the 11th hour in the talks? In case you missed any of them, a few of my personal favourites are: last chance saloon, on a knife edge, moment of truth and end of the road.

Following the latest round of talks, Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the EU remained committed to achieving “a fair, reciprocal and balanced agreement”, and that talks with the UK’s chief negotiator, Lord Frost, had reached a “crucial moment”.

In response, the UK accused the EU of making “unreasonable demands” and stated that a “substantial shift” was required in the EU’s position. Whitehall sources said no-deal was increasingly likely. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here several times before. Unsurprisingly, it’s still about fish and the level playing field.

Despite the final, final, final deadline having passed, the talks are continuing still. Sunday’s deadline, set by the EU, offered the last opportunity for the European parliament to ratify any agreement before the transition period ends. While talks are continuing, a last-minute deal is possible, but it’s unclear what it would entail. Until any deal can be ratified, there could be contingency plans implemented, or a brief period of no-deal, and the accompanying chaos.

As if Brexit problems aren’t enough, a new strain of Covid – thought to originate in Kent – has thrown the UK’s plans into disarray. The new strain, which has been around since September and on the government’s radar since October, apparently spreads more rapidly.

Thankfully, it’s no more lethal than the original strain, and there’s no reason to expect it wouldn’t respond to the vaccine. However, it has caused widespread concern across Europe.

You can read the article in full over at The Local