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HEALTH

Coronavirus: What we know about Spain’s first case

Spain confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus on Friday after a German tourist was diagnosed on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canary islands.

Coronavirus: What we know about Spain’s first case
Photo: AFP

He is one of a group of six people taken into observation on the island and isolated on Thursday after it was found some of them had come into contact with a man diagnosed with the virus in Germany, Spain’s Ministry of Health said.

The man who tested positive for the virus is “recovering well” at the island’s Nuestra Señora de GuadalupeHospital, said Fernando Simón,  of the Centre for Coordination of Health Emergencies at Spain’s Ministry of Health, on Sunday.

He explained that the patient had recently arrived on the island by plane via Tenerife and authorities were confident they had identified those people who he may have come into contact with who are considered most at risk of contagion.

This included people who had come into close contact with the diagnosed man, such as at a cafeteria on the island. Those considered to be at risk had been identified and told to report to medical authorities if they start to feel any symptoms.

READ ALSO: Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Spain

Around 15 to 20 people were therefore being monitored both in La Gomera and Tenerife in case they showed any symptoms, although so far none had been reported.

But Simón urged calm, explaining that the patient had been on the island a very short time before being isolated so the risk of mass contagion was low.

However, those who had been in contact with him on the plane over had yet to be identified – something that would happen by Monday – but only those who were seat in the rows directly in front and behind the patient were considered at risk.

Canary Island authorities set up a dedicated free information line – 900 112 061- for those who believe they may be suffering symptoms or want advice about the coronavirus.

A suspected case of coronavirus in a boy of eight in Barcelona was discounted on Monday after tests came back negative.

There are 21 Spanish nationals currently under quarantine in a hospital in Madrid after being repatriated from Wuhan in China.

None of the repatriated Spaniards have exhibited symptoms of the virus, but will remain quarantined at the Gómez Ulla military hospital in Madrid and held under observation for 14 days, the health ministry said.

The World Health Organization declared the epidemic an international emergency on Thursday, with cases confirmed in nearly 20 countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany.

In all over 17,000 people have been infected by the virus with the number of dead having climbed above 362 on Monday.

The mortality rate of coronavirus is hovering around the 2 percent mark, much lower than the 9.6 percent mortality rate during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03.

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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