Spain is being hit by a wave of the heavily mutated Omicron variant as the latest data from the Ministry of Health reveals Tuesday recorded almost 100,000 new infections. On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reduced the isolation period for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to seven days from ten, despite new infections hitting record highs.
The isolation time for close contacts of those who have tested positive has also been cut to seven days but more than 500,000 people could be spared if the Public Health Commission decides to cut quarantine altogether for this group altogether.
The Spanish decision, taken unanimously at a meeting between Health Minister Carolina Darias and regional health chiefs, follows similar moves by other countries including the UK and US.
A regional health official has said: “We have to adapt to the new situation created by the omicron variant.
“The circulation of the virus is very high and cases are growing exponentially, but it is also true that the vast majority of cases are very mild or asymptomatic in vaccinated people.
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“This means that it is beginning to make less sense to maintain such a long isolation period, which was agreed for the previous variants and which has an enormous economic cost.”
The UK opted to shorten the isolation period to seven days, given the patient tests negative the last two days.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the US announced people without symptoms may leave isolation after only five days, but the patient is encouraged to wear a face mask in all environments for an additional five days.
José Miguel Cisneros, head of infectious diseases at the Hospital Virgen del Rocío in Seville said: “The most consistent studies show that positives are no longer contagious in mild or asymptomatic forms of infection after the seventh day.
“This is the biggest reason for prolonged isolation among these workers, and it makes no sense.
“Between 20 percent and 30 percent still test positive ten days or even weeks later and they have to extend the isolation when the positive test is due to traces of RNA of the virus that cannot infect anymore.”
This comes as the country reports record high daily infections, despite the hospitalisation remaining relatively low.
Daily ICU admissions are equivalent to 44 percent of the worst peak of the January 2021 wave.
While, in the past seven days, more cases have been recorded than ever before in the pandemic and 60 percent more than in the worst of January 2021.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega