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Coronavirus in Spain: Real Madrid quarantined and La Liga fixtures suspended

Real Madrid went into quarantine on Thursday as La Liga announced Spain's top two divisions will be suspended for at least two weeks over the coronavirus.

Coronavirus in Spain: Real Madrid quarantined and La Liga fixtures suspended
Team training earlier in the week before Real Madrid was placed under quarantine. Photo: AFP

La Liga authorities made the decision after Real Madrid confirmed its senior football team is in quarantine after one of the club's basketball players tested positive for the virus.

Real Madrid's football and basketball players share facilities at Ciudad Real Madrid, the club's training ground in Valdebebas.

A club statement read: “A player from our basketball first team has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.   

“Since then, the recommendation has been made to quarantine both the basketball first team and the football first team, given that the two squads share facilities in Ciudad Real Madrid.   

“Likewise, it has been decided to close the facilities at our training ground and it is also recommended that all Real Madrid personnel who work there remain in quarantine.”

La Liga has also followed Italy's Serie A in suspending its matches, after a meeting on Thursday with the Spanish Football Federation and the Spanish Players Union (AFE).

It had been decided on Tuesday that games in Spain's top two divisions would be held behind closed doors but those fixtures over the next 14 days will now be suspended.

Real's second leg away to Manchester City in the Champions League last 16, scheduled for next Tuesday, is also in serious doubt.   

Barcelona have already confirmed their tie against Napoli at Camp Nou on Wednesday will be played without fans, although UEFA is facing mounting pressure to postpone completely both the Champions League and Europa League.

Domestic league matches in France, Germany and Portugal have been put behind closed doors while Serie A in Italy has been suspended until April 3.    

A La Liga statement read: “In view of the circumstances known this morning, referring to the quarantine established in Real Madrid and the possible positive tests from players at other clubs, La Liga considers that the circumstances now exist to continue with the next phase of action against COVID-19.”

“La Liga agrees to suspend at least the next two matchdays,” the statement added. “This decision will be re-evaluated after the quarantine at affected clubs and other possible situations that could occur have ended.”

Spain has reported 2,968 coronavirus cases and 84 deaths, according to figures on Thursday. Madrid is by far the country's worst-hit region, with 1,388 cases and 38 deaths.

 

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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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