Covid-19: First case of Omicron variant confirmed in Spain
Strain detected in Madrid's Gregorio Marañón Hospital in individual who traveled from South Africa
The first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has been confirmed in Spain.
The strain was detected in Madrid's Gregorio Marañón Hospital in an individual who traveled from South Africa, the hospital's department for microbiology and infectious diseases reported on Monday.
In a tweet, the department said that the patient was well and confirmed that same-day analysis was able to confirm that it was a case of the Omicron variant, a variant of concern according to the World Health Organization.
The Omicron variant has already been confirmed in several European countries including Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Madrid's regional government released a statement saying that the patient is a 51-year-old man who returned to Spain from South Africa on Sunday November 28 with a stopover in Amsterdam. The positive diagnosis was detected by antigen screening at Madrid Barajas airport.
The patient has mild symptoms and is in isolation. Health authorities are monitoring the close contacts of people who were on the flight from the Dutch capital.
Positive tests at Barcelona airport sent for sequencing
On Monday evening Catalan health minister Josep Maria Argimon said that two passengers who had arrived at Barcelona-El Prat airport from South Africa via Germany had tested positive for Covid-19 after rapid antigen tests.
"Samples have been sent to Bellvitge Hospital for screening and subsequent sequencing," to determine if the positive cases are of the Omicron variant, the health minister said.
Argimon also announced that Covid-19 certificates would be obligatory in Catalonia to enter bars, restaurants, care homes and gyms from Friday.
Quarantine for 7 southern African countries
The Spanish government had announced on Monday that travelers from South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) will have to quarantine for 10 days due to the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Visitors from these southern African countries are allowed to stop quarantining if they test negative on the seventh day.
Spain is suspending all flights to and from South Africa and Botswana from Tuesday due to the variant.
There are no direct flights between Barcelona and the southern African nations, but there are some routes with connecting flights.
Spain has tightened Covid-19 travel rules for travelers from abroad due to the rise in Covid-19 cases and concerns around the Omicron variant.
New Covid-19 variant "concerns" public health authorities
Public health secretary Carmen Cabezas, said on Saturday that Catalan authorities were "concerned" about the Omicron variant, but also recalled how other strains had worried them in the beginning, but turned out to not have "had much impact."
Catalan health minister Josep Maria Argimon said that the new Covid-19 variant is likely to be detected in Catalonia in the "coming days."
In an interview with Catalan public radio, Argimon said that closing borders would only "delay" the arrival of the new variant.