Nearly 70 Vaccinated Hospital Workers Test Positive for COVID After Christmas Meal

More than 50 hospital workers in Spain have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a Christmas meal, according to local media reports.

More than 170 health workers from the Intensive Care Unit of the Regional University Hospital of Málaga—located in the south of the country—attended the meal, with at least 68 people later testing positive for COVID-19, local media outlet Sur reported Monday, although health authorities had only confirmed 22 of these cases on Sunday.

All of the professionals had been fully vaccinated—including with booster shots. Most of the workers who tested positive are asymptomatic although in a few cases they have reported mild symptoms.

After the hospital became aware of COVID-19 infections following the meal, management proceeded to test everyone involved. Those workers who tested positive had to isolate for ten days and must not return to their jobs at the ICU until they obtain a negative result on a PCR test.

The oubtreak and the fact that Monday is a public holiday in Spain has reportedly forced the hospital to draft in emergency personnel to ensure adequate services in the ICU, a union delegate for the hospital from the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT,) Carlos Bueno, told local media outlet La Opinión de Málaga.

"This is something common when unforeseen events like this happen and above in the middle of a [period] where a good part of the staff has gone on vacation. During this pandemic, health professionals have given 200 percent and have covered each other at times when it has been necessary without the slightest complaint and they will continue to do so," Bueno said.

While there is no indication yet that any of the hospital outbreak cases are caused by the new Omicron variant, the "fact that an outbreak has arisen around a Christmas celebration attended by health care workers should make us reflect on the convenience of doing this type of celebration."

Sur reported on Monday that the health workers who attended the Christmas meal had all taken an antigen test before the meal.

"Although I know that those attending the celebration took measures, the virus is still there and you should not lower your guard," Bueno said. "It is necessary to keep a distance, it is essential to use the mask indoors and it should be used in outdoor spaces where there is an agglomeration of people."

Bueno said that the health care workers should not be demonized because outbreaks like these can occur at similar events that are currently taking place across the country involving workers from other sectors.

"What you have to do is take measures so that it does not happen again," he said.

Coronavirus particles
Stock illustration of SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Nearly 70 hospital workers who attended a Christmas meal in Spain have tested positive for COVID-19. iStock