Back in mid-January, Spanish health authorities advanced that they wanted to start monitoring the pandemic in a similar way to seasonal flu.
What this would mean in practice is learning to live with Covid-19 and finding ways for it not to dominate many aspects of daily life.
“Spain wants to lead this debate because it is timely and necessary to do so,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said at the time about her ministry’s plans to have Spain serve as an example to the rest of the world of what reclassifying Covid would mean.
But more than a month on, not a lot has changed on a national scale, especially compared to other European countries that have scrapped all coronavirus restrictions.
Masks are no longer required outdoors in Spain, there are fewer general Covid restrictions and the government is now reporting less frequently on infection and vaccination rates.
But with Spain’s sixth coronavirus wave arguably now over, Madrid health authorities are pushing for more Covid rules to be dropped.
“We’re at a phase of a clear downward trend that requires modifying the current national strategy,” Madrid health director Enrique Ruiz Escudero said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“We must evolve as the coronavirus evolves.”
Madrid’s health department will therefore scrap general coronavirus testing in the region of 6.6 million people and will put forward to the national health ministry that asymptomatic and mild cases no longer have to self-isolate.
Instead they suggest that these positive cases should keep using a mask, reduce their social interactions, avoid contact with vulnerable people and keep good hand hygiene.
On the same note, Madrid health authorities believe it should no longer be necessary for people to have to notify their health centres that they’ve tested positive if their symptoms aren’t serious.
Escudero and his department will also call for masks to no longer be required in indoor public settings apart from in care homes, hospitals and on public transport.
Now is the time to “gradually” start getting rid of Covid restrictions, the Madrid health head considered, adding more suggestions such as getting rid of the 1.5 metre safety distance recommendation, allow drinks to be consumed at events and ease hospitals’ visiting policies.
Madrid therefore continues to be the region in Spain which favours the recovery of normal pre-Covid life, having kept bars, restaurants and other establishments open as other territories went into lockdown during the pandemic.
The lifting of the indoor mask rule would represent a major change in Spain’s policy and although Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has twice said this will happen “very soon”, Madrid’s regional government is the only one openly in favour of doing this at present.
A key meeting between Spain’s Health Ministry and the regions on March 10th in Zaragoza will give more clarity as to whether Madrid can influence the national government’s stance regarding masks and quarantine rules for the asymptomatic.
This process is being described as the gripalización (influenza-tion) of the pandemic, whereas others are calling for Spain’s general health system to be covidizado (‘covisized’), two newly coined terms which describe different ways to adapt to a post-pandemic world.