WINNIE-the-Pooh has been temporarily banned from Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square so as not to offend Chinese president Xi Jinping, who’s on an official visit to the capital. A man who dresses up as the character in the central plaza has had to take the day off, as Madrid’s mayoress Manuela Carmena was due to present the VIP visitor with the ‘Golden Key to the City’. Pooh has become a viral internet meme to mock China’s leader, leading to the new Disney film Christopher Robin being banned in the country. The ban in China is because of internet users – especially Communist opposers – poking fun at what they consider to be a resemblance between Mr Xi and the lovable bear.
Scientists in Spain have created a vaccine against the Zika virus, the tropical disease caused by mosquitoes. In testing it on rats already infected with Zika, they found the animals made a complete recovery and that their immune system responded to the drug developed in the laboratory staffed by members of the High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Zika, a virus declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016, can cause severe neurological disorders and microcephalia, a very small, under-developed brain, in babies of pregnant women. The results open the door to trials on non-human primates and, if successful, would justify starting clinical trials.
With flu season well underway, The Valencian Health Authority and University hospital Torrevieja are recommending the annual vaccination for everyone aged 60 and over, as well as in other vulnerable groups, including those with chronic respiratory or heart disease or blood disorders, pregnant women, health care workers and those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are some whom they recommend shouldn’t be vaccinated without first consulting a physician, including children under 6 months, and those who’ve had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past. As always, the recommendation is to contact your GP.
Madrid today joins a global list of cities fighting air pollution through local initiatives. In a historic move, the Spanish capital has introduced a raft of measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the centre.
Viewed as a legacy-making project for Mayor Manuela Carmena, Madrid Central has made 472 hectares of the city center off-limits to traffic, except for local residents and public transportation. Non-residents with appropriate energy labels may enter to leave their vehicle in a public car park, and exceptions are made for people with reduced mobility, ambulances, taxis, private-hire cars and delivery vans. Electric vehicles will also be allowed in.
Meanwhile, average waiting times for surgery in Spain appear to be falling, according to data released this week by the Health Ministry.
Patients wait an average of 93 days for surgery at a public hospital, and one in every eight people wait over six months. The figures show that 584,000 patients were on a waiting list at the end of June… 20,000 fewer than a year earlier.
Average waiting times have been reduced by 11 days for operations.
Finance Minister María Jesús Montero says that parents who received paternity or maternity payments in the last four years from the Spanish Social Security system will be able to reclaim the income tax they paid on those benefits. The minister added that all of the rebates should be paid by April next year after a Supreme Court ruling in October settled a legal debate on whether or not the benefits should be subject to income tax. Taxpayers are only be able to claim back to 2014, as the Tax Office only allows for revisions to returns filed in the last four years.