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COVID-19 RULES

Spain mulls shortening isolation to five days or lower for people with Covid-19

Spanish health authorities are considering reducing the days people infected with Covid-19 should spend in isolation from seven days down to five days or as little as three days for the asymptomatic, and a change to the rule could be just around the corner. 

isolation quarantine spain five days
Spain's Public Health Commission has to decide whether quarantine for Covid sufferers should be five days as it is in the US. Photo: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

Around 10.4 million people in Spain have had Covid since the pandemic began, and although the incidence of the Omicron variant has been dropping rapidly in recent days, the country’s infection rate still stands at around 1,893 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday February 9th.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant over the past two months has meant millions of people have had to take time off work, putting huge pressure on the country’s economy. 

READ ALSO: How to request Covid-19 sick leave from work in each of Spain’s regions

On December 29th, it was decided that quarantines in Spain would be reduced from ten days down to seven in part to address this problem, with the Omicron variant’s generally milder symptoms as well as the country’s high vaccination rate and booster shot administration justifying the decision. 

Forty days later, Spain’s health authorities are again considering whether to reduce the period of isolation even further. 

On Tuesday February 8th, the country’s Public Health Commission met to decide whether quarantine for Covid sufferers should be five days as it is in the US, and as low as three days for those who have tested positive but have no symptoms. 

Business associations as well as the regional governments of Madrid, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha and the Valencia region are among those that have been pushing hardest for this to happen.

The Public Health Commission decided to delay the decision until their next weekly meeting, suggesting that the government’s chief epidemiologist Fernando Simón and his health emergencies team must first present new scientific reports relating to surveillance of the virus under these proposed new quarantine guidelines.

Epidemiologist Quique Bassat of Barcelona’s Global Health Institute has argued that there is scientific proof that “many people are still capable of infecting others from five to six days after testing positive”.

“It’s a risk to reduce the isolation period of positive cases if we are letting potentially infectious people move around freely outdoors,” Bassat told Spanish online daily Nius Diario. 

If other rules such as mask wearing or capacity limits for large events are being eased, the epidemiologist believes the quarantine period should not change. 

“Fewer than seven days is an unnecessary risk, at least at this time when there is still high transmission and many daily cases”.

“It’s clearly not an epidemiological measure, but rather an economic and work one,” argued for his part César Carballo, vice president of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine.

“If you want to reduce the quarantine period because the economy can’t take it any longer, that’s something else, but then you should be sure to give people clear rules: ‘you’re going to leave your home while being positive for Covid-19 , you’re forced to wear an FPP2 mask, especially for companies whose workers have to commute.”

Spanish authorities are looking to lead an international push for Covid-19 to be monitored in a similar way to seasonal flu, which suggests that mild Covid infections, however many there may be, will not be a determining factor when rolling out restrictions and a new self-isolation strategy. 

Spain has taken a cautious approach throughout the pandemic however, so if quarantine periods were to reduced, it may be first by just a day to six days of isolation, rather than five or lower still.

READ MORE:How Spain wants to lead global shift in Covid-19 surveillance

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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