The Catalan health department is planning to distribute up to 1.2 million flu vaccines between today's start of the annual vaccination campaign and its completion on November 30th (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). The health conseller Boi Ruiz insisted that the department would be ready to face a flu epidemic despite the cuts in spending that it is facing. The Generalitat's health department has a reserve of around €30 million in the event that technical measures and medical staff are needed to deal with such an outbreak. This amount of money would mean that hospitals could deal with an additional 14,000 admissions and contract the necessary temporary staff. During the vaccination campaign, the most at-risk groups will be the focus, including over-60s, people with chronic illnesses, health workers and those who work with people considered to be at risk, as well as those who work with members of the community, such as police officers and firefighters. The department also wanted to remind people that help is available by phone from Sanitat Respon (902 111 444, 24-hour service), because sometimes people have questions regarding the flu that can be answered without having to go to surgeries, thus avoiding crowding public health centres.
The question of televised debates between the two principal candidates standing for prime minister of Spain on November 20th, Mariano Rajoy for the Partido Popular (PP) and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (PSOE), is causing disagreements between the two sides (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). While it is certain that there will be debates, the question is how many. In the past, two meetings between the lead candidates (Felip González and José María Aznar, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero) have been screened but there doesn't necessarily have to be this number. At present, the leadership of the PP is considering whether to negotiate to have just one televised debate before next month's general election. The location of such a debate is also being considered: whether to hold it in the Academia de Televisión or at the studios of the Spanish public television company, RTVE. The official argument for such a move would be that the PP doesn't have to benefit one or other of the private television channels by taking part in any debates that they will host; these private channels—Telecinco, Cuatro, Antena 3 and La Sexta—have already requested such debates, which are very attractive, according to sources from the PP who have been contacted, given the audiences that normally watch these 'face-to-face' encounters. In contrast, in August, the PSOE campaign director, Elena Valenciano, wrote to the television chains to say that their candidate would take part in as many debates as they wanted.
If Mariano Rajoy does become prime minister of Spain, he is planning to reopen the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) to tourists; this is a spot close to Madrid where 30,000 of those who died in the Spanish Civil War, from both sides, are buried, as well as the dictator Francisco Franco—it is currently only open when religious services are taking place (read article in Castilian here, El Periódico). Sources from the PP have said to El Periódico that they are not going to repeal the Law of Historical Memory, which they have regularly criticised, although they will only apply those precepts that they supported during the passing of the law through parliament (nine of the 22 articles). In addition, within the plan of maximum austerity that Rajoy wants to adopt if he becomes prime minister, his party will cut benefits being received by the family members of victims of reprisals to be able to honour their memory and exhume common graves. The PP didn't agree with the decision to close the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum by the present PSOE government last year (due to reasons of safety because the condition of the site had seriously deteriorated; it was also reclassified as a religious rather than tourist site), although it had been receiving around half a million visitors a year; the PP has pointed out that other religious landmarks, such as the Sagrada Família, accepts visitors even if mass isn't being celebrated. Sources from the PP also said that the closure has damaged local businesses in the town of San Lorenzo del Escorial, where the mausoleum is located.