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HEALTH

Coronavirus: What are the rules in Spain for self-isolation and working from home in Spain?

The number of confirmed cases in Spain continues to rise and so too are the number of people across Spain who have been told to self-isolate to contain the spread of the infection, either because they have returned from a hotspot or because they might have been in contact with someone who was a carrier.

Coronavirus: What are the rules in Spain for self-isolation and working from home in Spain?
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

With more than 140 cases confirmed in Spain, the number of people in self-isolaton is growing and more and more companies are telling employees to work from home.

Read all the latest here (paywall free) Coronavirus in Spain: How worried should you be?

But does this mean forgoing wages?

Here's a look at the rules for workers who are affected by self-isolating.

Will I still get paid?

The short answer is yes. Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration has made it clear that the normal sick pay rules are applicable to those told to self-isolate.

This means that if you are a salaried employee and are self-isolating under the advice of authorities then you will be entitled to the same sick leave cover as you would usually get – regardless of whether you are in fact ever diagnosed with the coronavirus.

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So under usual sick leave conditions, when an employee is sick for one to three days, they receive no compensation for those missed days under Spanish law, although some companies will allow a certain number of sick days per year.

However, when an employee is out for 4 to 15 days, the employer must pay 60 percent of the salary for each day.

However, medical staff told to self-isolate are calling for it to be classified in the same way as “occupational injuries”  for which Social Security pays 75 percent from the first day going forward.

Spain’s Social Security office issued a new decree last week establishing this measure, the same guidelines were issued in 2009 during the swine flu outbreak known as Gripe A (H1N1) in Spain.

Do I need a 'baja'?

The usual procedure for calling in sick involves going to a doctor to get a 'baja' – a signed sick note – which must be provided to the employer within three days of the first day of sickness, delivered either in person, by a colleague or via email.

It is then accompanied by an 'alta' – a fit for work document – which must be presented to employers on returning to work.

However, because of the coronavirus authorities have waived this condition to avoid people visiting medical centres and potentially spreading the infection but those told to self-isolate will be under medical supervision after contacting the emergency number (which differs depending on the region where you live).

What about working from home?

Obviously not everyone has the kind of job that can be done from home, but if you are not able to go in to work you can ask your boss if you can 'teletrabajo' (work remotely) instead.

Some companies and offices have taken unilateral decisions to tell employees to work from home in which case this you should still be paid your usual salary when the working conditions are imposed by them.

What if I'm self-employed (autonomo)?

In theory, you should also be covered by the new directive concerning sick leave as long as you have paid Seguridad Social contributions for at least 180 days in a 5 year period.

What if my private English classes are cancelled? 

Many English-speakers give private lessons off the books to earn a little extra cash, especially those who are working here on the language assistant scheme (auxiliares de conversacion). We have heard reports of cancellations by nervous parents especially of those teachers who may have recently made a trip to Italy. Unfortunately, legally there is nothing you can do unless you come to a private arrangement to make up the classes another time. 

Who should be self-isolating?

Spain’s Health Ministry has stopped short of advising anyone recently returned from coronavirus  hotspots – China (including Hong Kong and Macau), South Korea, Singapore, Iran or the Lombardy, Veneto or Emilia-Romagna regions of Italy – to self-isolate for 14 days as a precautionary measure.

Instead they advise monitoring your health conditions and stay alert for symptoms but if feeling healthy there is no need to curb your everyday activities, including socializing and going to a work place.

However if symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath are felt then these are the guidelines for self-isolation

  • Do not go to a medical clinic or hospital but contact 112 emergency number or the dedicated hotlines set up in your region.
  • You will be asked to detail your symptoms and the background circumstances to assess whether you are at risk, these include details of recent trips to hotspots or contact with those who have been.
  • Stay at home and avoid contact with others in the house, maintaining a distance of at least a metre.
  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of it afterwards.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants
  • Wear a mask if you suspect you are ill, or if you are assisting someone else who is ill.

What is the general health advice?

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.
  • Wear a mask if you suspect you are ill, or if you are assisting someone else who is il

 

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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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