Covid questions: Do I have to quarantine in Spain?

Do I have to quarantine in Spain if I’m fully vaccinated but have Covid symptoms? What should I do if a close contact tests positive for Covid-19? How do I know if I'm a close contact anyway?

quarantine in spain
If you have symptoms compatible with the virus, the official guidance from Spain is that you isolate yourself at home until Covid is ruled out. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Do I have to quarantine in Spain if I’m a fully vaccinated contact of someone who tests positive for Covid-19? 

In early December 2021, the Spanish Health Ministry introduced new rules which stated that fully vaccinated people who came into close contact with certain positive cases had to quarantine for ten days if they tested positive for either the Omicron, Beta or Gamma strains, whiched requires several PCRs and sequencing to be confirmed.

On Wednesday December 22nd, realising that Omicron cases made up 47 percent of new infections in the country, Spain’s Public Health Commission revised the rules again. Now, if a person is fully vaccinated and turns out to be a close contact of someone who tests positive for any variant – even Omicron – they do not have to quarantine for ten days.

They should nonethless “limit their social interactions and stick to essential activities”.

These rules also apply to those who’ve had one vaccine dose.

Either way, you should get tested, preferably with a PCR test as they’ve proven to be more effective than antigen tests, and it’s advisable to keep your social interactions to a minimum until you get the result.

However, if you’re unvaccinated and you’re a close contact of a positive case, you will have to quarantine for ten days in all cases.

If you’re immunosuppressed then you also have to quarantine while waiting for the test result. 

In Catalonia, the regional government announced last Friday that from December 23rd close contacts of all positive cases and all strains would have to quarantine until they got a negative test result. They’ve since backtracked on this strict decision and will employ the same quarantine rules as Spain.

How do I know if I’m a close contact?

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, a close contact – un contacto estrecho – is “anyone who has provided care to an infected person or has been in contact with their secretions and fluids” or “has been in the same place as the positive case, at a distance of less than 2 metres and during a total accumulated time of more than 15 minutes in 24 hours”.

So, if you’ve spent a quarter of an hour chatting closely to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you’re considered a close contact.

The period of time that’s taken into account to identify a close contact runs from two days before the onset of symptoms of the positive case until the moment in which the case starts their quarantine. 

In asymptomatic cases confirmed to have Covid by diagnostic test, the close contacts are those who meet the above criteria from two days before the date of testing.

I’ve tested positive for Covid-19 in Spain, does quarantine depend on whether I’m vaccinated or not?

If you test positive for Covid-19 in Spain, you should speak to your local health centre so they can set up a track and trace for your case or potentially ask you go in to take a PCR test. 

It’s ten days minimum of quarantine for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who are infected, and if health issues persist after that, a further three days of quarantine must be observed. 

If you don’t have severe symptoms such as serious respiratory problems, you don’t have to go to your healthcare centre in Spain unless they ask you to.

If you are a tourist or non-resident in Spain who has tested positive for Covid-19, this article explains what you should do

You should also get in touch with your close contacts to let them know you’ve tested positive for Covid-19, and if you know which variant it is, you should also inform them of this.

What should I do if I have Covid symptoms in Spain?

Being vaccinated or having had Covid-19 before does not prevent someone from getting infected. 

If you have symptoms compatible with the virus, the official guidance from Spain is that you must act as if it were a confirmed positive, isolate yourself at home until Covid is ruled out, contact your health centre and get tested. 

The most common symptoms include fever, a cough and feeling short of breath. In some cases, smell and taste may disappear and you may feel generally unwell.

If you have any of these you should stay at home, use a FPP2 mask, and immediately contact your health centre to communicate the result of your test to your GP.

If you have a pharmacy-bought antigen test rather than a PCR test, this is still considered valid since in symptomatic cases the reliability of antigen tests is greater.

READ MORE: Where can I buy antigen tests in Spain and how much do they cost?

According to the Spanish health protocol, self-isolation should last a minimum of ten days from the onset of symptoms, or from the positive result of the test if the person is asymptomatic. 

A negative result means you no longer need to stay in isolation but you should keep a close check on your symptoms and opt for a PCR if you want more reliable results.

Should I get tested for Covid-19 even if I don’t have Covid symptoms?

This is what Spain’s Health Ministry has recommended to people if they’re going to go to a family gathering this Christmas, especially if there are people who are more vulnerable to complications from contracting the virus.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been buying antigen tests over the past days to have the peace of mind to meet with their loved ones over the festive period.

Consequently, they’re in short supply in Spain currently and Spanish authorities are worried that a negative result will give people a false sense of security, leading them to forget other ways that can help to reduce infections.

As with the rest of different scenarios that people will have to deal with this Christmas in Spain as Covid-19 infections rise rapidly, it’s mainly a case of exercising some common sense and individual responsibility.

You don’t have to get tested if you don’t have Covid-19 symptoms, but try to keep rooms well aired over Christmas, meet outdoors whenever possible, use a face mask when the situation requires it and if you’re meeting an elderly or vulnerable person remember to keep your distance especially.

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

The Spanish government's health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023, a new report has found, by which stage almost a whole year will have passed since other face mask rules were lifted.

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

Although masks haven’t been mandatory in indoor public settings (except hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and other health-related centres) since April 20th 2022, face coverings must still be worn on public transport in Spain, such as on buses, planes, taxis, metro carriages and trains.

According to a report published in Spanish news site Voz Populi, Spain’s Emergency Unit has agreed not to review Spain’s face mask rules until March 2023, even though all other Covid-19 domestic and travel restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022.

The article, which cites internal sources from Spain’s government, adds that the country’s Public Health Commission (a body which advises Spain’s Health Ministry on which measures to introduce) has reportedly agreed to shelve any possible changes until March, and as things stand keep the rule in place “for an indefinite time” as “it is not the right time to remove masks due to the arrival of winter”.

The Health Ministry, however, argues that no fixed date for reviewing face mask legislation has been set.

“We’re taking the German approach,” the Emergency Unit source told Voz Populi about the fact that Germany is the only other country in Europe with similar mask-wearing rules to Spain.

On October 1st, new measures were brought into force in Germany stating that passengers over the age of 14 must wear FFP2 masks on long-distance trains rather than surgical ones, with the German government saying it will not review the legislation until April 2023.

Fernando Simón, Spain’s Health Emergencies chief, told journalists recently that “it’s okay to wait a little bit to see how the disease evolves” before making a decision regarding the complete removal of face masks.

However, if Spanish health experts are indeed looking to follow in the footsteps of Germany, there is even a possibility that the return of face masks to all indoor public settings this winter could happen, or at least a debate about it. 

An increase in Covid and flu cases that’s overburdened hospitals this autumn, as well as the emergence of the new Omicron subvariant BQ.1, has resulted in German authorities considering whether they should bring back old Covid-19 restrictions for the winter months.

Spain is also starting to see an increase in Covid and flu infections, and talk of an eighth coronavirus wave is rumbling in the background, but there has been no mention yet by Health Ministry representatives of a possible return to indoor face mask wearing across the board.