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COVID-19 RULES

Covid-19: Spain scraps self-isolation for asymptomatic and mild cases

From Monday March 28th, people in Spain who test positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms will no longer be required to quarantine for seven days. 

Covid-19: Spain scraps self-isolation for asymptomatic and mild cases
It will also no longer be necessary for people with mild symptoms that could be related to Covid-19 to get tested to confirm their infection. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

Spain is bringing to a close its compulsory period of quarantine for those who test positive for the coronavirus but don’t have serious symptoms, the country’s Public Health Commission announced last Tuesday. 

The health body which advises Spain’s Health Ministry on which actions to take recommends that people with Covid-19 but who have mild or no symptoms still stay at home and rest, that if they go out they wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that they keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Quarantines will remain mandatory for serious cases and those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those over 60 years of age, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

A seven-day isolation period will also still be required from health staff who test positive for Covid-19.

In nursing homes and hospitals, quarantines will also continue to be mandatory regardless of people’s symptoms. The isolation period will last five days and can only end if 24 hours have passed without the person experiencing any symptoms.

These changes are part of Spanish health authorities’ strategy of focusing primarily on serious Covid cases, as evidenced recently when they decided to stop counting each and every new Covid-19 infection there is, and concentrate instead on monitoring high-risk groups and serious coronavirus cases. 

It will also no longer be necessary for people with mild symptoms that could be related to Covid-19 to get tested to confirm their infection; only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups have to get tested now. 

READ MORE: Spain to stop counting Covid infections except for serious cases 

“The high levels of immunity reached among the Spanish population have determined a change in the epidemiology of the coronavirus, which explains this transition to a different strategy,” the Public Health Commission said. 

The health body hasn’t ruled out bringing back the seven-day isolation period for mild cases if the ICU and hospital bed occupancy by Covid patients reaches a high-risk level again. 

In early March, Spain also lifted the mandatory isolation of unvaccinated people who were close contacts of positive cases.

After several weeks of falling coronavirus cases preceded by a rampant sixth wave which left five million infections, Spain’s fortnightly infection rate has now plateaued at around 450 cases per 100,000 people.

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FACE MASKS

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.

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