Spain plans stricter PCR testing for all close contacts of coronavirus cases

Spain’s Health Ministry is poised to introduce a new stricter protocol for coronavirus testing that will see all close contacts of a positive case offered PCR testing even if they are asymptomatic.

Spain plans stricter PCR testing for all close contacts of coronavirus cases
A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from an employee of the Hospital Sant Miquel care home for the elderly during a COVID-19 coronavirus testing campaign in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Wednesday that a plan had been agreed with regional health authorities and was ready to be rolled out.

“It seems likely that we will be carrying out these tests to help detect more asymptomatic cases, which currently represent between 40 and 45 percent of the new diagnoses,” he said on Wednesday.

Experts had warned that wider testing was necessary to avoid further outbreaks turning into a second wave with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommending the testing of all close contacts.

Currently in Spain the policy is to trace those who have been in close contact with a positive case and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days. But only those who develop symtoms are offered a PCR test.

“Close contact” is defined by being within two metres of a person for more than 15 minutes or having being  involved in their personal care.

But experts fear that the disease could be spread by those who are infected yet show no symptoms.

Illa warned that Spain would have to return to state of emergency measures if outbreaks could not be sufficiently controlled but hoped to avoid a situation that would see the entire country return to lockdown.

“”We believe that if security measures are followed, we can avoid circumstances that would see the need to confine the entire population,” he said.

And he said his ministry was working on the assumption that a second wave could occur later this year and was preparing for it, creating reserves of PPE and testing facilities to be ready to bring it under control.


Member comments

  1. When will this testing be available? There is no real indication given of dates or where exactly you would go to get access. More info needed.

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Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon.