MADRID – The government of Spain decided on Saturday to tighten access controls to the country due to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus. This is now known to originate in South Africa and Botswana.
El País writes that two provisions of the Ministries of the Interior and Health were published on Saturday in the official journal BOE. It explained a significant increase in new Covid-19 cases has been observed in a South African province in recent days. This has led to the identification of the new Omicron variant that shows numerous mutations related to a possible increase in transmissibility and the reduction of neutralisation capacity by the antibodies.
For the ministry, this explanation is the justification for increasing access control. Therefore, it has been established that travellers from “high-risk” countries will now have to submit a negative test certificate. This is in addition to acknowledging they have been fully vaccinated or have had the virus.
The government has added seven southern African countries to the list of high-risk countries; Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Therefore, passengers arriving from these countries will be required to provide a negative PCR test result. This must be performed in the 78 hours prior to arrival in Spain. And, furthermore, is regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or have recovered from a covid infection.
On Friday, the 27 European Union members decided at the same time to suspend flights from the same seven countries.
Sources at the Ministry of Health confirmed that all autonomous communities were consulted on Friday and that no case of the new variant was known in Spain at the time.
New omicron variant
In the resolution, published in BOE, the ministry explains that the new omicron variant “emphasises the need for a flexible mechanism to rapidly implement additional sanitation control measures for people from high-risk countries due to a significant deterioration in health conditions.” their epidemiological situation or in which they have discovered variants of particular concern’. To this end, the list of countries that are considered high-risk or high-risk will be continuously updated.
Travel restrictions for travellers from the UK
The other resolution to be published this Saturday comes from the Interior Ministry. This also refers to the list of requirements that are imposed on travellers, depending on the country of origin. What is new is that from 1 December (and until at least 2022) Spain will only allow vaccinated people from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Until now, travellers arriving from these islands were allowed to enter vaccinated or with a negative PCR. This has now been reversed due to the emergence of the new variants of the causative agent of Covid.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday labelled the threat of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus as “worrying”. It is the fifth variant of the virus to receive this qualification since the start of the pandemic in 2020. WHO fears the more than 30 mutations this new form of the virus contains will allow it to spread faster than previously known, and suspects it has a “higher risk of reinfection” in people who already have had covid.