CORONAVIRUS

Spain detects 10 new cases of coronavirus in 36 hours

A new positive is reported in Seville, adding to the patients in Madrid, Catalonia, the Valencia region and Tenerife

The first coronavirus patient in Madrid is being treated at Hospital Carlos III.
The first coronavirus patient in Madrid is being treated at Hospital Carlos III.VICTOR SAINZ

A man has been hospitalized in Seville after testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, bringing to 10 the number of cases reported in Spain in the last 36 hours. Two more people were treated earlier this month and discharged.

The Seville man, who is in an isolation ward at Virgen del Rocío Hospital, is the first confirmed case in the southern region of Andalusia. Of the 10 new cases reported in recent hours, four are in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands; two in Madrid, two in Catalonia, one in Castellón and one in Seville.

Medical sources recently told EL PAÍS that there is conviction among health professionals that the “virus could have been circulating in Spain for several days” already. “If we haven’t detected it, it’s because we haven’t been looking for it, and now we need to take that step,” said a department head from a large Spanish hospital. Health professionals have been struggling with a lack of unified EU protocol on what criteria to follow to detect cases.

Moderate risk

Madrid’s regional health authorities confirmed on Tuesday the first coronavirus case in the capital, at the end of a day when other Covid-19 infections were detected in Catalonia, the Valencia region and the Canary Island of Tenerife. On Wednesday morning a second case was confirmed in Madrid, and another in Catalonia. In total, 12 cases have been registered in Spain since the epidemic broke out, although two of those patients have already been released from hospital.

The Health Ministry has raised the risk of local transmission from low to moderate. The measure has been taken “out of prudence” and to ensure that “the health systems are alert,” said Fernando Simón, director of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies. “In most of the country the risk is low. In the areas where there are cases, clearly the risk is moderate, and it could even be high,” said the health official at a news conference on Wednesday.

Both cases detected in Madrid are young men who had recently traveled to the north of Italy. They are presenting mild symptoms of the illness and are receiving hospital treatment.

The case detected on Wednesday in Catalonia involves a 22-year-old woman who had also been in Italy. The first reported case in Catalonia is a 36-year-old Italian woman who lives in Barcelona and had recently traveled to Italy. The latter country has seen a spike in confirmed Covid-19 cases, particularly in the north.

The Catalan authorities have also ruled out 10 suspected cases and are monitoring eight others. Catalan public health chief Joan Guix on Tuesday pointed out that 80% of coronavirus cases are mild. “I’m more worried about the flu than the coronavirus,” he said on Tuesday.

Ten cases have been registered so far in Spain, although two of those patients have already been released from hospital

Also on Tuesday, an Italian couple on vacation in the Canary Island of Tenerife were confirmed to have the virus, and are currently receiving treatment in the Universitario Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria hospital, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Around a thousand guests at the hotel where the couple were staying are currently confined to their rooms as a precaution.

And in Vila-Real, in the province of Castellón, in the Valencia region, a man tested positive for the coronavirus at La Plana hospital, health authorities said. The patient is a 31-year-old man from Burriana who works as a chef at a restaurant, and who was recently in Milan for a bachelor’s party. In a voice note to his friends and family, he asked them not to worry. “Everything is under control. I am going to the hospital and I’ll be in isolation 14 or 15 days, maybe even less, because what they’ve found is very mild,” he told them. “It’s just a regular flu. I’m fine.”

Early cases

The first case in Spain of Covid-19, as the novel coronavirus has been named by health authorities, was confirmed on February 1 on the Canary Island of La Gomera. The patient was a German national who had been in contact with a work colleague who had caught the virus from a third colleague who had been in the epicenter of the new coronavirus, the Chinese city of Wuhan. The man was kept in isolation in an area hospital until he could be discharged.

The second case in Spain was confirmed on February 10. The patient was a British citizen who caught the coronavirus in the Alps and was subsequently isolated in the Son Espases hospital on the Balearic island of Palma de Mallorca with mild symptoms.

Travel warning

For the first time on Tuesday, the Spanish Health Ministry recommended that Spaniards restrict their journeys abroad. Minister Salvador Illa stated that unless it is strictly necessary, Spaniards do not go to four Italian regions – Lombardia, Piamonte, Emilia-Romana and Veneto – Japan, Iran, South Korea, Singapore and China. “There is no prohibition,” he said, “but unless it is essential, do not go to a risk zone. It’s common sense.”

Illa also explained that measures are in place should the situation get worse, but did not offer more details. He did reiterate that there would be more information provided for passengers arriving at Spanish ports and airports, and that phone numbers for information will be put in place in the regions. Illa recommended that should a case be suspected, it is better to use the phone to raise the alarm so that tests can be carried out in the person’s home, thus minimizing possible contagion.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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