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COVID-19

Spain to introduce two-week quarantine for international arrivals

Spain’s government has prepared new rules that will see all visitors who arrive in Spain from other countries quarantined for two weeks.

Spain to introduce two-week quarantine for international arrivals
Travellers prepare to fly at an airport in the Canary Islands. Photo: AFP

The measures were outlined in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday as part of the latest steps to minimize the spread of the coronavirus as Spain lifts lockdown measures gradually across the country,

From Friday May 15th new arrivals will have to agree to self-isolate within their home or booked accommodation for 14 days.

But they will be allowed to leave confinement to purchase essential supplies such as food and medicine or to seek medical assistance on the condition that they wear a mask at all times. 

The quarantine conditions will be applied regardless of what phase of de-escalation their province is in.

However, this does not mean that Spain is opening up its borders to international travellers.

Currently the borders, both land and air, are closed to all except Spanish citizens, those who are legally resident in Spain, frontier workers or those who can prove “exceptional reason” to enter Spain.

The require to quarantine will be in place from Friday and will last throughout the State of Emergency, which is currently set to continue until May 23rd, although the government has expressed its intention to extend yet again.

 “This measure is considered proportionate to the gravity of the situation and in line with the controls reestablished along internal borders by a large number of member states of the European Union,” the order said.

“The favourable evolution of the epidemic in our country and the start of the rollback make it necessary to reinforce measures of control,” it said.    

“Given the global distribution of the virus and working from the principle of precaution, it is necessary that anyone coming from abroad observe a 14-day quarantine period.”

So far the only people required to quarantine on arrival were those Spanish citizens who were repatriated from outbreak hotspots of Wuhan and northern Italy, but Spain is now following the latest WHO recommendation being adopted by countries across Europe.

Airlines will be obliged to provide Spanish health aurthorities with information on passengers’ intended location for quarantine so that they can be contacted and monitored. 

The health authorities may contact the people in quarantine to monitor them and if these people notice fever or any symptom compatible with Covid-19, they must inform the health services by telephone.

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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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