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Woman in Barcelona tests positive to coronavirus, the first confirmed case on mainland Spain

Catalonia’s regional health department reports that a woman in Barcelona has tested positive to Covid-19, becoming the first case of the coronavirus to be confirmed on mainland Spain.

Woman in Barcelona tests positive to coronavirus, the first confirmed case on mainland Spain
COVID-19 coronavirus is seen in yellow, emerging from cells (in blue and pink) cultured in the lab. This image is from a scanning electron microscope. NIAID-RML

The woman, who is a resident in Catalonia and had recently returned from a trip to northern Italy, has been admitted in Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic where she is being treated in isolation.

Authorities said she was 36-year-old Italian citizen living in Barcelona who visited the Bergamo and Milan area of northern Italy between February 12th and 22nd.

At a press conference, Joan Guix the secretary of public health in the region said the patient had contacted health authorities on Monday evening after experiencing flu-like symptoms. A subsequent test confirmed the coronavirus. 

“We have already identified all those she may have been in contact with and they are being assessed. and are being assessed,” he said. adding that the 25 identified contacts would stay at home in isolation for a total of 14 days under epidemiological surveillance, undergoring regular testing for the virus.

The Generalitat said it has “activated coronavirus protocol” to deal with the case but urged calm. 

Guic reminded the public that “80 of the cases (of coronavirus) were classified as minor, only 15 percent are serious and just 2 percent critical,” he said. 

Those who are at most risk from the virus are the elderly and those with  pre-existing medical conditions, he said.

The news comes a day after an Italian man tested positive for the virus on the Canary Island of Tenerife, where the hotel in which he is staying has been put on lock down. His wife also tested postive on Tuesday afternoon, authorities in the Canary Islands confirmed bringing the total  number of confirmed cases within Spain to five.

Two other patients who have subsequently  been given the all clear-  one on the Canary Island of La Gomera and the other in Mallorca – and discharged from  hospital.

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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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