Students no longer have to quarantine if under 20% of classmates have Covid-19

Catalonia to provide fellow students with free antigen tests if someone in class is positive

Frederic Godàs school students in Lleida in September 2021 (by Salvador Miret)
Frederic Godàs school students in Lleida in September 2021 (by Salvador Miret) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 10, 2022 09:17 AM

School-age children will no longer have to quarantine if under 20% of their classmates have Covid-19.

The protocol change, which was announced by Spain's Public Health Committee – made up of Spanish and regional health authorities – on Friday and confirmed by the Catalan health department hours later, means that self-isolation will only be necessary when 5 or more students test positive within the space of a week. 

If this is the case, only those who are not immunized – that is, those who are not vaccinated or have not had Covid in the past three months – will have to quarantine. 

Up until now, all primary school-age students to whom the vaccine was not yet available were considered close contacts of classmates who tested positive for the virus and were sent home to self-isolate. 

Catalonia will, however, be providing classmates of students who have the virus with free antigen tests, as authorities stated on Sunday. 

The quarantine protocol change, which will take effect from Monday when classes start up again after the winter break, has not been welcomed by all, including Catalan officials who complained that it was announced only days before children are expected back in school, making it harder to inform residents as well as teachers and health care professionals in time. 

Iolanda Segura, the spokesperson for the USTEC teachers union, told the Catalan News Agency she did not believe this was a good idea as the omicron-driven sixth wave of the pandemic is yet to peak.

"This measure should be considered down the line and should always be accompanied by contact tracing," Segura said. 

The aFFaC federation of students' families, on the other hand, welcomed the move, calling it "good news for classrooms."

Self-isolation protocols remain the same for secondary school students: only unvaccinated close contacts of classmates with the virus have to quarantine for 7 days. 

Vaccination rates among students

Children 5 to 11 are, as of mid-December eligible for the pediatric jab, but just over three weeks later vaccination rates among them remain relatively low. As of January 6, 27.7% of kids in this age group have had one dose, while none have had two and only 2.5% are currently considered fully vaccinated due to a previous infection. 

Among students in older age groups that have been able to get vaccinated for much longer these rates are considerably higher. 69.9% of 12- to 15-year-olds have had one dose, 49.5% have had two, and 58% are fully vaccinated, while 87.4% of 16- to 19-year-olds have one dose, 70.7% have had two, and 84.6% are fully vaccinated.