Health experts concerned over unexplained coronavirus cases in Spain

In the municipality of Torrejón de Ardoz in Madrid region, a number of patients have tested positive for Covid-19 despite not having traveled to any country with a reported outbreak

Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, where one of the patients from Torrejón de Ardoz was transferred.
Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, where one of the patients from Torrejón de Ardoz was transferred.SUSANA VERA (REUTERS)

Spanish health experts are analyzing several cases of coronavirus infections of unknown origin. There are at least five people in Torrejón de Ardoz, a municipality in the Madrid region, who contracted the Covid-19 virus without traveling to any country considered a risk area. Doctors have also been unable to trace the infections to any other patient.

In Spain, so far around 90% of confirmed cases are imported. The Health Ministry notes that there is still “not a great deal of transmission at the national level.” On Sunday the number of cases had risen to 83.

Torrejón de Ardoz

The latest case in Torrejón de Ardoz, which has a population of 130,000, is a 73-year-old man who has since been transferred to Carlos III Hospital in the Spanish capital. A 71-year-old Ecuadorian woman who lives in Torrejón and recently flew back to her home country also tested positive for the virus and remains hospitalized in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian government announced on Sunday that it is looking to locate the 287 passengers who were on the woman’s flight from Madrid to Guayaquil on February 14.

Authorities are concerned about these cases because they show that the coronavirus has been spreading in Torrejón, yet they are unable to pinpoint the origin of the infections. At midday on Monday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, confirmed that one of the outbreaks in Torrejón was linked to an evangelical religious group.

“In the next few days we will see the real extent of this episode,” said a health expert specializing in infectious diseases. “Sometimes it is limited and the number of cases shows a linear rise until they self-contain. Other times, growth is exponential. We have to be alert to see what happens now.”

Basque Country

In Spain’s northern Basque Country region, a doctor at Txagorritxu Hospital, in the city of Álava, has tested positive for the coronavirus. This patient had not traveled to any country with a reported outbreak, and had only been to Spain’s southern Andalusia region in mid-February. “We are unable to confirm whether this trip is the origin of the infection,” said the Basque health department chief, Nekane Murga. Three more infections in the area are tied to this patient.


Authorities are also keeping a close eye on the southern city of Málaga, which recently recorded the first locally transmitted coronavirus case in Spain. Miguel Ángel Benítez, 62, was infected after attending a meeting in Málaga, where he was in contact with a work colleague who himself contracted the disease after spending time with a couple from Shanghai in Spain’s Costa del Sol. Benítez is at the origin of five more infections in the area. Although in this case, health authorities have been able to follow the trail of infections, officials are monitoring the Costa del Sol because it is a major tourist hub with a significant presence of foreign travelers.

English version by Susana Urra.

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