Spain says Omicron close contacts must quarantine as third case detected 

Spain’s Health Ministry on Wednesday announced that people in close contact with those infected with the Omicron, Beta and Gamma variants will have to quarantine for ten days even if they’re fully vaccinated, as the third case of the newest Covid strain has now been confirmed in the Balearics.  

quarantine spain omicron
Close contacts of people with suspected or confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant as well as the Beta and Gamma strains will have to quarantine for ten days. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

Spain may not be planning tougher domestic restrictions following the emergence of the Omicron variant in the country, but it will try to slow down the spread of this new variant from overseas with quarantine measures. 

Last Friday, the Spanish health ministry announced that all arrivals from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe would have to show a negative Covid test before flying to Spain and quarantine for ten days (seven if another negative PCR is provided), even for those who are fully vaccinated. 

On Wednesday, Spanish health authorities decided to take their containment measures up a notch and announced that those in close contact with a suspected Omicron case will also have to quarantine for ten days even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.  

Back in June, Spain’s Health Ministry revised its Covid-19 prevention strategy to allow those who have been fully vaccinated to not have to quarantine for ten days if they come into contact with a positive case.

This December update of “Covid-19 early detection, vigilance and control” guideline for the regions still states that, but now with a few exceptions.

This includes close contacts of people with suspected or confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant as well as the Beta and Gamma strains. 

As stated in the document, “confirmation of the type of variant is not usually available at the time of diagnosis, so this measure should also be applied to those cases in which there is suspicion due to preliminary information through a specific PCR or because the case is part of an outbreak that includes cases produced by these variants”.

This suggests that most people who test positive for Covid-19 won’t necessarily know that it’s the Omicron, Beta or Gamma variants unless they’re informed, in which case they wouldn’t know that they had to quarantine. 

The Beta variant was also first detected in South Africa and the Gamma strain was discovered first in Tokyo in four people who had just arrived from Brazil.

The other exceptions are close contacts of immunosuppressed people and contacts of cases and when there is suspected Covid-19 transmission through bison (yes, the animals). 

Spain appears to be trying to nip this variant in the bud while scientists around the world ascertain the Omicron’s strain transmission levels and its potential to sidestep vaccines.

As things stand, there are only three confirmed cases of the Omicron variant since last Thursday, but Catalan health workers did detect the presence of this strain in wastewater more than two weeks ago.  

For now, this new quarantine measure is unlikely to mean many people in Spain have to quarantine, but if Omicron cases did start to rise in the country it could have more far-reaching consequences.

Balearic health authorities confirmed on Wednesday that the third confirmed case of the Omicron variant has been located on the island of Mallorca. 

As in the case of the previous Omicron cases confirmed in Madrid, it was a fully vaccinated person who had recently travelled to Spain from South Africa via Amsterdam, having initially tested negative in a PCR test . 

There are two other suspected Omicron cases in Catalonia yet to be confirmed.

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

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What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain?