Spain may not be planning tougher domestic restrictions following the emergence of the Omicron variant in the country, but it will try to slow down the spread of this new variant from overseas with quarantine measures.
Last Friday, the Spanish health ministry announced that all arrivals from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe would have to show a negative Covid test before flying to Spain and quarantine for ten days (seven if another negative PCR is provided), even for those who are fully vaccinated.
On Wednesday, Spanish health authorities decided to take their containment measures up a notch and announced that those in close contact with a suspected Omicron case will also have to quarantine for ten days even if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
Back in June, Spain’s Health Ministry revised its Covid-19 prevention strategy to allow those who have been fully vaccinated to not have to quarantine for ten days if they come into contact with a positive case.
This December update of “Covid-19 early detection, vigilance and control” guideline for the regions still states that, but now with a few exceptions.
This includes close contacts of people with suspected or confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant as well as the Beta and Gamma strains.
As stated in the document, “confirmation of the type of variant is not usually available at the time of diagnosis, so this measure should also be applied to those cases in which there is suspicion due to preliminary information through a specific PCR or because the case is part of an outbreak that includes cases produced by these variants”.
This suggests that most people who test positive for Covid-19 won’t necessarily know that it’s the Omicron, Beta or Gamma variants unless they’re informed, in which case they wouldn’t know that they had to quarantine.
The Beta variant was also first detected in South Africa and the Gamma strain was discovered first in Tokyo in four people who had just arrived from Brazil.
The other exceptions are close contacts of immunosuppressed people and contacts of cases and when there is suspected Covid-19 transmission through bison (yes, the animals).
Spain appears to be trying to nip this variant in the bud while scientists around the world ascertain the Omicron’s strain transmission levels and its potential to sidestep vaccines.
As things stand, there are only three confirmed cases of the Omicron variant since last Thursday, but Catalan health workers did detect the presence of this strain in wastewater more than two weeks ago.
For now, this new quarantine measure is unlikely to mean many people in Spain have to quarantine, but if Omicron cases did start to rise in the country it could have more far-reaching consequences.
Balearic health authorities confirmed on Wednesday that the third confirmed case of the Omicron variant has been located on the island of Mallorca.
As in the case of the previous Omicron cases confirmed in Madrid, it was a fully vaccinated person who had recently travelled to Spain from South Africa via Amsterdam, having initially tested negative in a PCR test .
There are two other suspected Omicron cases in Catalonia yet to be confirmed.