Sixty-eight hospital workers from Spain’s University Regional Hospital in Malaga have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 after they all attended an early Christmas party on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Health officials from the Andalusian regional government confirmed the breakthrough cases over the weekend, as investigators searched for a cause to determine what happened. Authorities concluded that the outbreak stemmed from either the 173-person Christmas party or a large meal shared at the hospital prior.

All of the infected doctors, nurses, and ICU medics have reported mild symptoms and many had even gotten their third booster shots before attending.

Many health officials were thankful that everyone in the room was fully vaccinated, proving the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines against fighting the Coronavirus. Even though 68 hospital workers still tested positive, showing zero symptoms, or in some cases minor symptoms, is a good sign for dealing with the virus in the future.

“We must not lower our guard,” said Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who warned Spanish citizens to stay vigilant in their fight against Covid-19 over the holidays. Health officials have also warned other hospitals against throwing a Christmas party this year, to ensure that as many doctors and ICU nurses are available if a larger Coronavirus outbreak occurs.

Spain had previously announced that they had at least five cases of the Omicron variant before the 68 hospital workers, and another four cases in Spain’s Balearic Islands. It is unknown which variant of the Coronavirus infected the 68 hospital workers. An unnamed father allegedly arrived back home in the Balearic Islands from South Africa and infected two members of his family.

According to USA Today, the 68 hospital workers also took antigen tests before the Christmas party, which confirmed that they had tested negative. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifies that the Covid-19 antigen test, which is much faster than a rapid response PCR test, is sometimes less accurate and should only be used for emergency use.

More than half of the infected group are now isolating, BBC News reported, and local doctors have been redeployed to Spain’s University Regional Hospital in Malaga to cover for them.

A gathering to thank hospital workers in Malaga, Spain for their work fighting Covid-19
A gathering to thank hospital workers in Malaga, Spain for their work fighting Covid-19. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Last week in the nearby country of Portugal, 13 members of the Belenenses Soccer Club tested positive for the South African Omicron variant, cancelling games and quarantining entire teams.

“Since this is a new variant, we have to tighten the controls,” said Portugal’s health director Graca Freitas. “Despite being vaccinated, we know that the vaccine is not 100% effective.”

Though infected with the Omicron variant, all 13 members of the Belenenses Soccer Club were reported as having just mild symptoms.

In the United States, 22% of all new Covid-19 cases are from children, as the country stressed taking those aged 5-11 who are reentering school during the winter flu season to get vaccinated.

“We’re throwing everything we have at this virus, tracking it from every angle,” President Joe Biden stated. “I’m sparing no effort, removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe.”

According to BBC data, 74% of the total population in Spain has been fully vaccinated, and 9% have had their booster shots.

The high vaccination rate has kept the country away from vaccination mandates, unlike other countries where the rate is much lower and vaccinations are required to eat indoors or enter certain spaces.

“I understand why countries with a low vaccine coverage are planning it,” said Spain’s health minister, Carolina Darias, “but in Spain, we are one of the leading countries for vaccination in Europe and the world.”

She stated that other tactics such as “masks being mandatory inside and outside when safe distance cannot be maintained,” are being well-implemented.