Authorities in southwestern Spain have issued an international health alert to locate a group of Dutch tourists who left a hotel where they were meant to isolate for 10 days after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Spain, which has one of Europe's highest vaccination rates, is readying more measures to deal with a recent uptick in new coronavirus infections just over one month away from a busy travel period for end-of-the-year family reunions.
Charo Espino, a spokesperson for the health department in the Extremadura region, said Friday that seven of nine of the tourists from the Netherlands who had tested positive for Covid-19 had simply "disappeared."
The central government's representative in the region, Yolanda García Seco, told local media that police were searching for the tourists and that airports were also on full alert in case they try to leave the country.
The group was traveling through Extremadura on Tuesday when some of them felt sick and stopped in Navas del Madroño, a town halfway between the regional capital, Cáceres, and the border with Portugal, for a test that confirmed their contagion, local councilor Denis Talavera told Extremadura TV.
"The tourists were staying at a local hotel and they had to keep the quarantine mandated by health authorities, but they didn't," Talavera told the regional public broadcaster. "We don't know how or when they left," he added.
A slight increase in new coronavirus infections has brought Spain's 14-day contagion rate over 100 new cases per 100,000 residents. Although that's still a far cry from the sharp spikes recorded in other European countries, some regional governments have approved, or are mulling, the use of mandatory "vaccine passports" to enter indoor public spaces, restaurants or nightclubs.
After hard-hitting Covid-19 waves in 2020 and early 2021 that killed thousands and strained the country's hospitals, Spain has fully vaccinated 89 percent of residents aged 12 or older.
This week, the government announced plans to widen the use of booster shots to people over 60 years, from 70 and older until now.