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Public health at fore of Formentera’s January plenary

Foto ple gener 2021 1At the Consell de Formentera’s January full-house assembly today, participants connected virtually for an encounter that was largely characterised by public health measures related to the ongoing pandemic. GxF-PSOE cabinet members won cross-party backing on their first proposal, a measure dealing with Covid-19 vaccines.

First councillor and tourism chief Alejandra Ferrer defended the initiative, which found local decision makers pressing the central government to continue work with the European Union around international agreements to expedite production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, key to guaranteeing sufficient levels of local immunity and reactivating island tourism.

Councillors prodded officials in Madrid and Palma to ensure nationwide immunity levels necessary to restoring free and safe movement between the distinct Spanish regions and restarting national tourism as soon as possible. They highlighted the importance of creating safe corridors, increasing Formentera’s competitiveness as a destination spot and putting travellers in a position to get here safely.

Civil law on Eivissa and Formentera
Assembly members struck unity on a joint GxF-PSOE cabinet and Sa Unió proposal regarding fair taxation of civil law succession agreements involving the personal income tax (IRPF). In the words of economy and tax office councillor Bartomeu Escandell, “our islands’ civil law must be respected”.

In defence of the measure and vis-à-vis a draft bill on combatting tax fraud currently under congressional review, councillors asked the central government to jettison proposed changes to an article of related legislation from 2006, and otherwise block any part of the Spanish constitution, the Balearic Statute of Autonomy, or legislation recognised by the regional government and parliament that perverts the capacity of local institutions to act on civil and fiscal measures. The Consell de Formentera urges the government and parliament of the Balearic Islands to defend diversity of local institutions as enshrined in the Balearic Compilation of Civil Law, namely agreements currently facing fiscal reform by the central government.

Fibre-optic connections
Cabinet councillors and the opposition came together to support a proposal to make fibre-optic connections available across the island. New technologies councillor Vanessa Parellada defended the measure, pointing to such technologies newfound importance since the start of the Covid crisis: “New technologies have enabled remote work, put families in a position to balance work and family and created new ways of socialising, gathering and sharing information”. The councillor said fibre-optic technology was to thank for “significant leaps forward in terms of universal Internet access on Formentera”, while insisting there were certain parts of the island that “continued to trail behind”. Councillors called on relevant administrations and companies to extend fibre-optic connections to every home, business, bar, restaurant, hotel and tourist establishment on the island.

Formentera, zero-waste municipality
Assembly members struck unity on backing for Formentera’s membership in the ‘Programme to Certify Zero-Waste Municipalities’. While underscoring recent circular economy initiatives such as the pallet and bicycle reuse programme at the household waste recycling centre, environment councillor Antonio J Sanz said still more remained to be done, and trumpeted efforts like the Zero-Waste Municipality programme, “which strive to cut waste and use resources in more efficient ways”.

After tweaking by cabinet councillors, one Sa Unió-backed measure to receive unanimous support involved extending the validity of holiday rental registrations into 2021 — a measure which built on the success of a similar Consell-led initiative earlier in the pandemic.

Public health proposals
One more Sa Unió proposal to win cross-party backing after modifications by cabinet councillors was a message to the Balearic government reiterating the need for urgent action to secure mass voluntary screenings with rapid antigen tests to pinpoint Covid-19 cases on the island.

In yet another unanimous vote, assembly members asked the Balearic government to increase the island’s Covid-19 services and accelerate funding to establish a local base for 061 emergency response service, including an additional plea for special resources to tackle simultaneous emergencies. Social welfare councillor Rafael Ramírez defended the measure, which was brokered by cabinet councillors and the opposition, insisting that “Formentera residents deserve a decent service just as much as islanders elsewhere in the Balearics”. Ramírez additionally pointed out that the region’s 2021 spending plan included a budget line item for creation of emergency response infrastructure on Formentera. The councillor concluded by insisting that “public services like education and healthcare that ensure equality need to be built up, not cut back”.

Unanimous backing materialised yet again around a cross-party call to require negative Covid-19 test results of all inter-island travellers. Once Formentera’s “perimetric sealing-off” is lifted and while certain islands remain in situations of risk, councillors asked the Balearic government to take steps to implement identical controls to those which visitors from outside the archipelago are already subject to.

Official proclamation on World Cancer Day
The January plenary concluded with a special proclamation marking World Cancer Day on 4 February. In the words of social welfare councillor Rafael Ramírez, “the crisis succeeding the pandemic has done nothing if not exacerbate the social and healthcare precariousness that people with cancer and their families endure already”. According to Ramírez, the Consell “supports cancer research because it is an essential part of the fight, and applauds the ongoing commitment and efforts of all the associations and groups accompanying those affected by cancer”.

29 January 2021
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Meeting to coordinate safety and control measures ahead of Formentera’s passage to Enhanced Tier 4 of public health alert

foto 2021 reunio coordinacio seguretatAs Formentera prepares to enter “Enhanced Tier 4” of public health alert on Saturday 30 January, decision makers held a special meeting to coordinate controls and patrols by local law enforcement, the Formentera Inspections Department and the Balearic department of emergency services and inspections.

Among the attendees of the part-face-to-face, part-virtual gathering were Consell chair Alejandra Ferrer, interior chief Josep Marí, inspection services chief Antonio J. Sanz, members of local law enforcement and representatives of the regional health department’s emergency and inspection services.

According to Ferrer, meeting participants reviewed infection data, including places and modes of transmission detected so far. “Based on this information we’ve put in place a coordinated strategy for the days ahead to keep residents and business owners informed and perform controls to make sure the new ‘Enhanced Tier 4’ measures are respected”, she said.

Attendees of the meeting agreed on the importance of tightening controls to ensure individuals who test positive or close contacts stay home.

Controls on social and family gatherings
Consensus was also struck regarding the need for special controls on social and family gatherings, which, according to data from recent weeks, are the largest source of new infections and flare-ups. Ferrer announced that from Saturday individuals not living in the same home could no longer gather, indoors or out, and asked islanders to be “especially responsible over the next two weeks. Don’t meet with people outside your household unit: that’s how we’ll protect each other, swiftly reduce new infections and get our social lives and our economy back on track.”

Sealing off the island
As for closure of entry and exit points on the island, forces of order reported that islanders have complied with related measures. The “perimetric sealing-off” will remain in force for two weeks.

Lastly, meeting attendees spoke about fines for Covid rule-breakers and ways to simplify protocol for processing them.

28 January 2021
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Formentera to bolster Tier 4 protocol from Saturday 30 January

foto 2021 nivell 4 reforcatThe chair and deputy chair of the Consell de Formentera, Alejandra Ferrer and Ana Juan, respectively, held an virtual meeting today with Balearic first minister Francina Armengol and health and consumption minister Patrícia Gómez to monitor and assess the Covid-19 situation on the island. After the gathering Ferrer announced that in light of spiking local infections and in a bid to swiftly bring cases under control, Formentera would enter a stricter form of tier 4 public health alert on Saturday 30 January.

Among the biggest changes in restrictions in force for the next two weeks: gatherings are limited to people from the same household; restaurants must close (takeaway service can continue till 10.00pm and delivery till midnight); gyms must close; continued enforcement of “perimetric sealing-off”; small shops must reduce capacity to 30% and close at 8.00pm, except for essential services.

Info-sharing meeting
Before meeting with Armengol, Ferrer and Juan sat down face to face with the regional director of public health, Maria Antònia Font, to review the specifics of Formentera’s public health situation:

Of 162 infected islanders, four are currently at Can Misses while the rest are at home and receiving at-home care. Ninety-six of the cases can be traced to active local clusters that have been registered, meaning that, since individuals’ close contacts can be easily traced, the situation is under a degree of control and the rate of infection relatively stable.

Though top regional health department officials speak of stability, the local premiere said the island’s passage to “reinforced” Tier 4 protocol aimed for cautiousness in light of serious issues such as Covid variants already present on Eivissa, occupancy of hospital beds there and the rising number of cases.

Ferrer added that the island’s government was once again looking at the option of massive local testing, saying Balearic officials have made assurances that if infections didn’t drop in the next seven to ten days, wholesale screenings would be used to “pinpoint positives and introduce appropriate lockdown measures”.

At a meeting last week, party representatives and Formentera’s league of small- and medium-sized businesses supported the move to more restrictive “Enhanced Tier 4” measures to contain the local Covid spread.

Other issues
President Ferrer additionally spoke to Balearic officials about pressing Madrid and Europe to hasten vaccine production and distribution to ensure the local population’s immunity by summer. She also insisted improved contact tracing would be key to isolating close contacts and curbing transmission, and said primary care services needed urgent help in order to provide proper care.

To conclude, Ferrer once again exhorted islanders to be responsible by respecting restrictions and forgoing gatherings: “From Saturday we’ll be limited to meeting with members of our household, but some people will still go to work and children will go to school, so we need to remember to respect distancing rules and wear masks.” She encouraged people feeling cooped up to “enjoy the island, go outside, go for walks with family”. “But at the smallest sign of symptoms, contact infocovid”, she continued, “because if you have caught the virus, stopping its spread and getting professional help are crucial.”

27 January 2021
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Formentera enters Tier 4 of public health alert

foto 2021 nivell 4Formentera’s top official was joined today by Govern balear spokeswoman Pilar Costa in a press conference to evaluate the local epidemiological situation and announce Formentera’s passage to tier 4 of public health rules. President Alejandra Ferrer traced the change to a surge in infections that has brought total active Covid-19 cases to 114. “The figures are troubling”, said Ferrer, highlighting a growing number of Covid patients at the Formentera hospital as an additional factor in the decision to ask the regional government for an updated response.

The president reminded members of the press that Formentera’s “perimetric sealing-off” was announced a week ago, with Saturday marking the start of a ban on entry and exit if a person’s reasons for travel aren’t specifically included in emergency orders. “These steps have curbed mobility between the two islands”, said Ferrer, “and that helps reduce contact between individuals from different stable bubbles. But it’s taking some time for the positive effects of that to materialise, so we’re asking for new restrictive measures”.

New provisions under Tier 4
Formentera will be in Tier 4 of public health alert from tomorrow until at least 30 January. As part of the biggest changes, while social gatherings indoors and out remain limited to 6 individuals, they may not include more than two households; the curfew starts at 10.00pm, instead of 12 midnight, and remains in effect until 6.00pm; restaurants may not offer indoor seating and must end outdoor service by 10.00pm, except on Fridays, Saturdays and the eves of holidays, when outdoor service must stop by 6.00pm. Take-away orders are allowed until 10.00pm as long as customers do not enter establishments, and food may be delivered until 12 midnight.

The perimetric sealing-off that began 16 January remains in force, and the Balearic government will implement similar provisions on Eivissa starting tomorrow.

As for activities organised by the local government, the president said that all non-official after-school programming would be postponed, with Consell services like the library and cinema forced to adapt to new rules and reduce capacity. Formentera’s government will continue encouraging employees to work from home, assuring the continuation of services, though with a necessary reduction in social contact. The swimming pool will remain closed too, and the fitness centre must cancel all group classes and oversee a wholesale modification of services.

Meeting with PIMEF
Ferrer sat down earlier today with deputy chair and commerce chief Ana Juan along with representatives of Formentera’s league of small- and medium-sized businesses to discuss help for local trade. The Consell works with the regional government to ensure such assistance can be accessed quickly and easily. President Ferrer promised the local government would continue to help hometown businesses by waiving municipal fees.

“The gathering with business owners also served to address the importance of vaccines and a local immunity level of 70% — crucial to Formentera’s ability to reopen for tourism”, said the president.

Ferrer indicated the Govern balear was looking at Formentera’s epidemiological situation in deciding whether or not to implement mass screenings.

Plea for responsibility
President Ferrer once again asked islanders to be responsible, keeping interactions to a minimum and heeding public safety measures. “Open-air activities abound on Formentera”, she said, asserting that islanders need not stay “holed up at home”, while urging people to “play by the rules to keep themselves and the people they love safe”.

To familiarise islanders with updated restrictions, Formentera has put out informational posters with every new phase and tier of public health protocol, distributing them to local restaurants and businesses, posting them both on social media and the Consell de Formentera website and sharing them with media outlets.

22 January 2021
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

Alejandra Ferrer’s letter on new Covid measures

Amid an increasingly alarming epidemiological situation on the island, earlier today Consell de Formentera president Alejandra Ferrer sent a letter to Balearic first minister Francina Armengol to push for new measures to slow the exponential spread of local infections.

Ferrer pointed to a worsening state of affairs in arguing for screenings of broad swaths of Formentera to help pinpoint and isolate the virus effectively. The president reiterated previous calls for efficient and fast-acting contact tracers to reduce the mobility of infected individuals’ close contacts.

“The coherent thing to do”, continued Ferrer, “is to compliment the battery of measures taken so far with new restrictions and more expansive tools so we can detect asymptomatic cases, isolate them and trace their close contacts”.

Scroll down for the complete text.

21 January 2021
Communications Department
Consell de Formentera

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SRA. FRANCINA ARMENGOL
PRESIDENTA DEL GOVERN DE LES ILLES BALEARS
CARRER DE LA LLOTJA, 3
07012 PALMA (ILLES BALEARS)

Madame First Minister,

Our island’s epidemiological situation is increasingly dire. Active Covid cases today total one hundred, 17 of which are new infections, while just seven days ago it was half that number. Such being the case, we are obliged to request new measures to curb this exponential rise in infections.

Since early December we have asked for controls on inter-island travel and measures to reduce individuals’ movement in the run-up to the holidays and curtail contact between people from different households and stable bubbles. Last week we requested Formentera be sealed off but the virus has found a foothold on the island and is now spreading between residents.

We believe is it crucial that no effort be spared as we attempt to effectively curtail mobility and social gatherings to stem the spread of the epidemic.

Formentera’s epidemiological data is troubling and an increasing number of our hospital beds are occupied.

We mustn’t forget that Formentera and Eivissa share a Department of Health, and both island’s epidemiological situations contribute to increasing pressure on healthcare services, both here and on Eivissa.

For the above reasons and in view of the worsening state of affairs, we feel that screenings of broad swaths of Formentera are key to pinpointing and isolating the virus effectively. I wish to reiterate my previous calls for efficient and fast-acting contact tracers to reduce the mobility of infected individuals’ close contacts.

When we first made these requests in December, we were told that such a screening wasn’t commensurate to Formentera’s numbers. Based on the current situation and in light of the speed of infections in recent weeks, the coherent thing to do is to compliment the battery of measures taken so far with new restrictions and more expansive tools so we can detect asymptomatic cases, isolate them and trace their close contacts.

We ask for measures adapted to our situation, and for solidarity between the islands.

As always, we will collaborate on everything in our power to ensure compliance with related measures and controls.

Cordially,

Alejandra Ferrer Kirschbaum
President, Consell de Formentera

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