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COVID-19

Spain reports first case of Omicron Covid variant

Spain said Monday it had detected its first case of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 in a man who had recently arrived from South Africa.

A South African Airways (SAA) flight is seen on the tarmac before departing from the O.R. Tambo International Airport
On Friday, Spanish authorities suspended flights with South Africa and Botswana in reaction to fears over the new variant. Photo: Emmanuel Croset / AFP

The 51-year-old was tested when he arrived at Madrid airport on Sunday via Amsterdam and was found to be positive, the regional government of Madrid said in a statement.

“The patient has light symptoms and is undergoing quarantine,” the statement added.

Earlier on Monday, Madrid’s Gregorio Maranon Hospital tweeted that its microbiology service had detected the first case of the Omicron variant in Spain, without giving further details.

The World Health Organization has listed Omicron as a “variant of concern” and countries around the world are now restricting travel from southern Africa, where the new strain was first detected, and taking other new precautions.

The WHO says it could take several weeks to know if there are significant changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

Several other European nations, including Belgium, Britain and Germany have detected cases of the variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

On Friday, Spanish authorities suspended flights with South Africa and Botswana in reaction to growing concerns over the new variant which was first detected in the South African city of Pretoria. 

The following day, Spain’s Health Ministry put Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe on its new high-risk list.

Travellers who are able to reach Spain from these nations will have to present a negative PCR or NAAT test taken within 72 hours prior to travel to Spain even if they are fully vaccinated. 

They must also go into quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Spain, or for their whole stay if it’s under 10 days. 

READ MORE: What are the new international rules for travel to and from Spain this Christmas?

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COVID-19 RULES

Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

The Catalan Health Ministry has introduced a new way of asking for sick leave from work for those with Covid-19 symptoms. The leave will automatically be given for five days, without the need to present a positive test.

Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

Catalan Health Service Director Gemma Craywickel, along with the Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas, announced the move during a press conference on Tuesday.

Workers with Covid symptoms can now ask for sick leave from their job through the Meva Salut website, app or via the appointment website here, without the need to present a positive antigen or PCR test. The new service has been available since Tuesday, July 5th.

All that is needed is to log on with a CIP number and password or digital certificate and click on ‘altres servis’ (other services), followed by ‘Programar visites d’atenció primària’, where you usually make an appointment. 

Those who apply will automatically be given sick leave for the next five days, which will be confirmed via text message or e-mail.

If symptoms persist longer than five days, authorities say you should contact your local health centre to ask for the leave to be extended.

The move was introduced in a bid to take the pressure off local health services who attended 105,024 patients in the last week, 16 percent more than during the previous week.

Around 9.07 percent of people who visited hospitals in the region on Monday July 4th -15,817 patients – had symptoms compatible with Covid-19.

In addition, within the last four weeks, Catalan health services have seen 85 percent more patients with acute respiratory illnesses, thought to be a result of Covid-19 infections.

“The measure aims to free up resources for people who really them,” explained Craywinckel.

“It’s a way of simplifying administrative procedures. We already know what the symptoms are, so there is no need for the patient to explain to us face-to-face or over the phone,” she continued.

The number of Covid-19 infections in Catalonia has risen by 15 percent in the last week, with 2,032 hospital admissions, the highest number since mid-February 2022.

There have also been 51 Covid-19 patients admitted to Catalan ICUs in the last week.

Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas called on people to respect the requirement to continue wearing face masks on public transport and said that vulnerable people should keep wearing masks in indoor public spaces too. 

READ MORE: What are the specific mask rules for public transport and travel in Spain?

This is not the first time the Catalan health authorities have introduced an automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19.

A similar service was introduced earlier this year during the height of the sixth wave, with a seven-day leave period plus the need to present a positive Covid-19 test.

Andalusia also introduced a similar automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19 and a positive test back in February 2022.

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