Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Spain's government has ruled out bringing back domestic Covid restrictions following the discovery of the second case of the Omicron strain in the country, preferring to avoid measures that “slow down the economy” and recommending smaller social gatherings instead.

People queue to buy Christmas lottery tickets at the popular
People queue to buy Christmas lottery tickets at the popular "Dona Manolita" lottery outlet in Madrid in 2020. The Spanish government is against bringing back Covid restricitions that were in place last Christmas. Photo: Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Although Spain has tightened international travel restrictions in the face of the worrying but still largely unknown Omicron variant, the national government doesn’t want to reintroduce domestic restrictions seen at previous stages of the pandemic. 

When asked on Tuesday if there could be any further lockdown or states of alarm in Spain after Christmas or if capacity limits for the hospitality sector and shops could return, Health Minister Carolina Darias said such measures were “a thing of the past”.

What Spanish health authorities have called for is for people to limit the number of participants taking part in social gatherings over Christmas especially, although this remains a recommendation and no number has been given. 

“If we look back at November 30th 2020, we see that Spain had a fortnightly infection rate of 275 per 100,000 people but the impact on ICUs was 27 percent Covid occupancy, today we have 7 percent,” Darias argued.

“As for Covid hospital bed occupancy, it stood at 13 percent then and today it’s at 3 percent. 

“And the most relevant data of all , there were around 1,000 Covid deaths in that week but this week we’re at 90 Covid deaths”.

Darias concluded that her government is therefore not considering any “other scenarios other than reinforcing vaccination”.

Government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez also stated in a press conference on Tuesday that “what matters is vaccination”, seeing vaccines and facemasks as the “tools for success” against the virus. 

“After 15 months fighting the virus we’ve learnt how to deal with it without having to stop the economy in its tracks,” she stated.

“Stopping the virus without stopping the economy” is thus the mantra of the Spanish government, which on Wednesday saw how the OECD revised Spain’s growth forecast downwards to 4.5 percent for 2021. 

“Quite honestly, the epidemiological data does not force us to envision a scenario where we have to adopt restrictions, all the decisions we make will be to ensure the path of economic recovery,” Rodríguez stressed.

Two cases of the Omicron variant have so far been detected in Spain, both in Madrid and both asymptomatic people who had recently been in South Africa. There are currently other possible cases in Barcelona and Valladolid. 

Spain’s Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies was the health department that called for social gatherings in Spain this Christmas to be kept small, classifying the Omicron variant as “of concern” and of high transmission risk. 

Last Christmas, Spanish health authorities caused confusion by suggesting that only “allegados” – a term that’s rarely used and roughly means people in your inner circle – should meet over the Christmas period.

The one restriction which will be present in several regions of Spain this Christmas is the requirement of the Covid health pass to enter bars, restaurants, hospitals, events and more. So far, seven autonomous communities have had the measure approved by the regional high courts.

READ MORE: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

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What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain?