MADRID – The Spanish Council of Ministers has approved the restriction on flights from the south of Africa. This is to stem the arrival of more cases of the new coronavirus omicron variant discovered in South Africa.
The “preventive” measure will come into effect on Thursday, December 2 at 12.00 am. It will remain in effect until midnight December 15, as reported by government spokesman Isabel Rodríguez. The measure will not affect flights that return Spanish and Andorran citizens from that region to Spain.
Flights from countries in southern Africa with passengers transferring in Spain to other non-Schengen states can also land on Spanish soil. However, these passengers will not be able to leave the airports.
This measure extends those existing ones. Earlier, a 10-day quarantine was imposed on passengers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The checks and tests required at airports were also increased.
First confirmed case in Spain
Spain on Monday confirmed the first case of coronavirus of the omicron variant in a passenger who – after a stopover in Amsterdam – arrived in Madrid from South Africa. After that, two cases of omicron were confirmed in Barcelona in passengers returning from South Africa. All three have mild symptoms of COVID-19, according to Spanish health authorities.
From Saturday, December 4, people arriving in Spain from one of the risk countries, including South Africa, must present a negative diagnostic test, even if they have been vaccinated. In addition, an antigen check is performed upon arrival at the airport. This measure has enabled the detection of the first three confirmed cases in Madrid and Barcelona.
Omicron has been with us for a longer time
However, the Netherlands reported on Tuesday that it had found the new version of the virus in two test samples from November 19 and 23. That’s a week before the arrival of the two flights from South Africa where 61 passengers were found to be infected with coronavirus, including 14 cases of omicron. Based on this, the authorities assume that the variant is already circulating worldwide on a larger scale than originally believed.
‘Recipe for Success’
Anyway, and in view of the December bridge and the Christmas holidays, Rodríguez has called for a repeat of “the recipe for success” through rapid third-dose vaccination, social responsibility, and the use of masks.