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Spain’s Rafa Nadal tests positive for Covid-19

Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal said Monday he has tested positive for Covid-19 on his return to Spain from Abu Dhabi, where he took part in an exhibition tournament in which he met with Spain's elusive former king Juan Carlos.

Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts during his semi-final match against Britain's Andy Murray in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi
Nadal had been due to fly to Melbourne later this month to compete in an ATP event ahead of the Australian Open.Photo: Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

“I am going through some unpleasant moments but I trust that I will improve little by little. I am now confined at home and have informed the people who had been in contact with me,” he wrote on Twitter.

“As a consequence of the situation, I have to have total flexibility with my calendar and I will analyse my options depending on my evolution,” the 35-year-old added.

“I will keep you informed of any decisions about my future tournaments.”

The Spanish former world number one had been due to fly to Melbourne later this month to compete in an ATP event ahead of the Australian Open.

The 20-time major champion has struggled with a foot injury for the past six months — forcing him to miss both Wimbledon and the US Open.

Nadal lost to another former world number one Andy Murray in an exhibition match on Friday in Abu Dhabi, his first match since August.

He then lost to Wimbledon semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov of Canada on Saturday.

Despite missing almost half the season, he finished 2021 ranked No.6 in the world after picking up two titles in Barcelona and Rome and making the semi-finals at the French Open and the quarters at the Australian Open.

During the tournament on Friday in Abu Dhabi, Nadal was photographed talking to Spain’s former king Juan Carlos I without wearing a face mask.

It was a rare public appearance for the 83-year-old since he went into exile in the United Arab Emirates in August 2020 following graft allegations. Since meeting Nadal on Friday, the emeritus king has tested negative for Covid-19 via PCR test.

Nadal said he was regularly tested in Abu Dhabi, and the results were always negative. His last test there was on Friday, and he received the results on Saturday.

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COVID-19 STATS

Outbreak or seventh wave? Health experts divided as Covid cases rise in Spain

Spain’s decision to stop counting all infections has some epidemiologists arguing health authorities are turning a blind eye to rising cases. But is the country truly heading towards a seventh wave?

Outbreak or seventh wave? Health experts divided as Covid cases rise in Spain

Three weeks since the Easter holidays came to a close and the indoor face mask rule was lifted in Spain, the Covid infection rate among over-59s has increased considerably, for most health experts predictably. 

It’s double what it was on April 1st – going from 459 cases per 100,000 up to 813 per 100,000 – and although Covid hospitalisations have risen by 78 percent in a month, pressure on hospitals remains stable. 

Not that this can be considered a complete picture of the epidemiological situation in Spain as the health ministry decided last March it would stop requesting data from the regions for infections among under-60s. 

This is part of the Spanish government’s plan of managing Covid-19 in a similar way to other endemic diseases such as seasonal influenza. 

The focus in recent weeks has been lifting Covid restrictions, not counting and reporting all Covid infections as frequently and rigorously and keeping a close eye only on the elderly and vulnerable. In a nutshell, returning to life pre-coronavirus.

But for some epidemiologists, the 55,578 new infections and 234 Covid deaths in the past week are indicative of the fact that the virus is still raging strong and that the end of Covid rules may have come too soon.

“We’re not facing a silent wave of the pandemic.  We’re walking blindfolded into a new wave, we don’t want to see it and we don’t want to name it,” Daniel López-Acuña, former director of emergencies at the World Health Organisation, told public broadcaster RTVE.

“There is a considerable rise in the infection rate, and  a rise in the infection rate sustained over time is a new wave, whether you want to call it that or not , López-Acuña added, arguing that if the incidence in under-60s were also analysed, “we would see the same infection rate or greater”.

Epidemiologist Quique Bassat argues that although there is talk among health experts of a seventh wave, “what we don’t know is how long it will last and if this is the beginning of what will end up being a seventh wave, or if it’s really just a new outbreak.” 

For Bassat, who is regularly interviewed on La Sexta and Antena 3 news, a rise in cases after the Easter holidays and the removal of face masks indoors is “what was expected”, but that “doesn’t mean that the population should be scared” and it “isn’t necessary to change the current strategy” of the health ministry.

“Pressure on healthcare is what has to determine if we should take a step back in the de-escalation of Covid-19 measures,” Bassat concludes.

It’s clear that the Spanish government’s approach to this stage of the pandemic is subject to a variety of opinions among the scientific community.

Some health experts, such as immunologist Matilde Cañelles of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), consider it “irresponsible” to stop quarantine for positive cases and not count infections when there are still 30 people dying of Covid every day in Spain. 

Others take a more pragmatic approach and call for the fourth dose (second booster) of the Covid-19 booster vaccine to be offered to over-80s in the country as previously suggested, as the infection rate in this group is now over the 1,000 per 100,000 mark.

For epidemiologist Oriol Mitjà, Covid-19 adviser for the Catalan government, the coming weeks will shed more light on how big this coronavirus wave will be.

“Omicron is a variant with vaccine escape and with the potential to infect up to 60-70 percent of the population. 30 percent were infected at Christmas, 30 percent will avoid it and 30 percent can be infected now,” Mitjà tweeted.

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