Spanish king’s annual speech warns against virus complacency

Spain’s King Felipe VI has warned citizens to remain cautious as the coronavirus can still inflict widespread damage

Addressing the nation in a pre-recorded Christmas Eve broadcast, the Spanish monarch said that a successful vaccine rollout has improved the situation from a year earlier. But he urged people not to drop their guard.

”We are seeing that the virus still has the capacity to harm in many ways,” Felipe said. “The risk has not disappeared.”

Spain, like most of Europe and other parts of the world, is experiencing a record spike in contagion over the festive period, when families traditionally hold large gatherings. Health authorities have reported three days in a row of record-breaking caseloads and have reinstituted mandatory mask-wearing in open spaces with few exceptions.

“We all have to do everything possible not to take steps backwards in this health crisis that has caused so much suffering,” Felipe said.

The king also remembered residents of the Spanish island of La Palma, in the Atlantic Ocean, where a volcano eruption for nearly three months has destroyed houses, infrastructure and crops but caused no casualties.

“Today our hearts and our thoughts remain with you,” the monarch told islanders.

Watching the king’s annual appearance on television just before Christmas Eve dinners is an annual ritual in many Spanish households. In recent years, as scandals tied to the royal family have swirled, media commentators and politicians scrutinize his speech searching for signs of the monarch’s attunement to the mood of his subjects.

But there was no direct reference to the circumstances of Felipe’s father, former King Juan Carlos I.

The former monarch, 83, moved to the United Arab Emirates last year after judicial probes on his possible financial wrongdoings emerged. Although a Swiss probe on money laundering was dropped recently, prosecutors in Spain’s Supreme Court are still investigating the allegations.

Since assuming the throne in 2014, Felipe, who is 53, has tried to distance himself from his father.

In his speech on Friday, the current monarch said that all institutions of the state should serve people.

“We must,” Felipe said, “respect and abide by the laws, and be an example of public and moral integrity.”

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