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COVID-19

Spanish woman who escaped Omicron quarantine hotel claimed they were ‘treated like dogs’

Dutch authorities placed a couple in isolation in hospital after they absconded from a quarantine hotel following their arrival from South Africa, as the pair reportedly said on Monday they had been “treated like dogs”.

The Ramada Hotel where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP
The Ramada Hotel where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

Border police said the Portuguese man and Spanish woman were arrested on board a Spain-bound plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Sunday.

They were among dozens of people quarantined in an airport hotel after 61 passengers on two KLM flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for Covid-19 — 14 of them with the new Omicron variant.

“We heard that people left the hotel, unfortunately, even if they were advised to stay there. So we had to take action and we made the arrest,” Robert van Kapel, spokesman for the border police at Schiphol Airport, told AFP.

“Now they are in a place where they are isolated, in a hospital,” he said.

The couple, Carolina Pimenta and Andres Sanz, told Dutch broadcaster RTL that they had both tested negative for coronavirus before leaving South Africa, but she had tested positive on arrival during a stopover in Amsterdam on the way home to Spain.

They insisted that after days of asking for a re-test, and two negative self-tests, a Dutch health authority official and a security guard at the Ramada quarantine hotel had said they should leave and would not get into trouble.

“The suggestion that we escaped from quarantine is too ridiculous for words. Nobody told us what the rules are, we were treated like dogs,” Pimenta, who said she was a biomedical researcher, was quoted as saying by RTL.

“I know how important it is that everyone abide by the rules in this crisis,” she said.

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Border police then offloaded her from a flight to Spain on the tarmac, she said, adding that she was taken “with much fuss and screaming… like a criminal.”

A spokeswoman for the mayor of the local Haarlemmermeer municipality confirmed the couple were “in a hospital in the Netherlands” and said they were now under investigation for a possible crime.

“These people were asked a first time to stay in the hotel, then they were asked a second time, urgently, now they are in isolation. What they did was not really wise,” spokeswoman Petra Faber told AFP.

“In the Netherlands, it is not illegal to be outside when you have been tested positive (for) Covid. But when you go into a plane knowing you have it, then it is another story.”

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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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