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‘A ridiculous lack of control’: Madrid slams Spanish govt for allowing Barajas travellers in with positive PCR tests

A top Madrid health official has accused Spain's national government of negligence for reportedly being aware that less than 10 percent of Covid tests are being carried out on inbound travellers at the Spanish capital's airport, as well as allowing in people who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Madrid Barajas Airport
Image: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Antonio Zapatero, Deputy Minister of Public Health and head of the COVID-19 Plan for the Madrid region, has said Spain’s central government is “aware” that travellers with positive PCR tests are arriving at Barajas Airport, accusing La Moncloa of “not doing their jobs properly” with regards to border control, according to a report in online daily 20 Minutos.

“From January until now (late May 2021) tests have only been carried out on 7.4 percent of travellers coming into Barajas. It is a ridiculous figure that showcases the lack of real control,” Zapatero said during a press conference.

Zapatero explained that during the weekend of May 14th to 16th, there were 21 cases of Covid-19 at Barajas Airport. He explained that those cases hailed from countries such as Colombia, the Dominican Republic, France, Turkey, and Morocco, and were later admitted to the Zendal Hospital in the capital. According to Zapatero, at least three of these people had positive PCR tests.

Spain’s Ministry of Health has indicated that these cases were detected when carrying out random documentation checks.

“I do not understand how it is possible to let people board with positive PCR tests,” said Madrid’s Deputy Minister of Public Health.

When asked if national health authorities had communicated any information regarding these cases of positive PCR tests to them, Zapatero replied that “they have not given us any explanation”.

According to the report by 20Minutos, the Madrid government has detected a total of 800 imported coronavirus cases in health centres and hospitals that have entered through Barajas Airport.

Zapatero has also indicated that two of these imported cases were of the Indian variant. One of these two cases is a Spanish citizen residing in India who was transferred to Spain on a special medical plane and the other is a foreign tourist.

“The Indian variant is more worrying, because of what we’re seeing in the United Kingdom currently,” continued Zapatero.

“In the week of May 21st to 27th, the number of cases has increased by 20 percent and the number of deaths has increased by 14 percent.

“This mutation may complicate the definitive control of the pandemic. In the United Kingdom, there is an increase in cases and hospitalisations in young, unvaccinated people too,” he concluded.

Countries around Europe are tightening travel restrictions with the UK because of the spread of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19. 

Spain on the other hand has removed all restrictions for British tourists. From May 24th, UK holidaymakers can visit Spain without the need to quarantine or present a negative PCR test result. They will however need to fill in a health control form. 

Spain will also allow all vaccinated travellers – regardless of their country of origin – to visit the country from June 7th.

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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