Health

Spanish students to go back to school after Christmas break, despite omicron

Cases have hit new highs since the highly contagious omicron
variant of the coronavirus was detected some two months ago, raising concerns
that children would not be able to go back to school after the Christmas
holidays.

The omicron variant accounted for around 43% of cases in the
week before Christmas, Spanish Health authorities said on Monday.

But officials from the 17 Spanish regions, which set their
own health policy, all voted in favour of a return to the classroom on Tuesday
in a rare display of unanimity in a country riven by stark political
differences.

“It’s about the physical attendance of all our students
from next January 10 throughout the country,” Health Minister Carolina
Darias told reporters after the regional meeting.

Masks will be mandatory at all times and schools must
guarantee adequate ventilation, while regional administrations will work to
cover any teacher absences due to infection, she said.

The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14
days rose to a new record of 2,296 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, a more
than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December.

Pressure on hospitals is on the rise but remains well off
highs seen a year ago. Intensive care occupancy reached 21.2% on Monday, up
from 8% a month ago but less than half the peak of 43% recorded last January.

More than 90% of Spaniards over 12 have received a full
vaccine course, according to health ministry data, while just under a third of
children aged 5-11 have received their first dose since Spain began vaccinating
that age group in mid-December.

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