Spain recommends sports matches be played behind closed doors over coronavirus fears

The Health Ministry has also advised the cancelation of medical congresses and meetings in order to keep medical staff available

A tourist in the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel, which is on lockdown after coronavirus cases were confirmed among guests there.
A tourist in the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel, which is on lockdown after coronavirus cases were confirmed among guests there.BORJA SUAREZ / Reuters

The number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in Spain had climbed to 150 by Tuesday afternoon, health officials said in a daily update. Seven patients were reported to be in intensive care and 13 of the cases involved health workers, adding a new layer of difficulty as authorities work to contain the spread of the disease.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa, announced a recommendation that sports matches that will attract crowds from high-risk areas such as north Italy, Iran, China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore be played behind closed doors. He also advised the cancelation of all medical congresses and meetings due to be held soon in order to keep the maximum amount of medical staff available as possible.

Fernando Simón, head of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, had said earlier in the day that such a decision might be made to restrict public access to large sporting events.

“It makes no sense that if they can’t congregate there, we should bring them to congregate here,” said Simón about the return leg of a Champions League match between Valencia CF and Atalanta BC, an Italian soccer team based in Bergamo, in the northern region of Lombardy, which is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.

No deaths from the coronavirus have been reported in Spain, and many of the cases are being described as mild

In Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, health authorities reported a new case among the group of around a thousand people who were placed in lockdown at a hotel where an Italian couple tested positive for Covid-19. On Friday, authorities allowed 140 people to leave the H10 Costa Adeje Palace, and more authorizations were issued over the weekend. A total of 193 individuals had been allowed out by Monday evening, according to the local newspaper Diario de Avisos.

No deaths from the coronavirus have been reported in Spain, and many of the cases are being described as mild. While the majority of infections can be traced back to people who traveled to risk areas or were in contact with individuals who did, there are a few cases of unknown origin that remain under investigation in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. These cases are located in Torrejón de Ardoz (in the Madrid region), in the Basque Country and in Málaga.

Basque healthcare

In the Basque Country, one of the regions where authorities are still investigating the origin of several unexplained infections, the situation in the public healthcare system took a turn for the worse. Besides the five health workers who have already tested positive at two hospitals in the city of Vitoria, authorities on Tuesday confirmed that around 100 more healthcare workers are in isolation, out of a total of 220 who are being monitored for signs of the coronavirus.

A doctor outside the Txagorritxu Hospital in Vitoria.
A doctor outside the Txagorritxu Hospital in Vitoria.LINO GONZALEZ RICO

Of the 13 new cases detected in the Basque Country on Tuesday, 10 are in Álava province, and half of those are hospital workers, including two physicians at Txagorritxu hospital in Vitoria, adding to three other cases recently detected there. “It’s hit the heart of the system, the resident physicians,” said a member of the emergency teams at Txagorritxu Hospital. Hospitalized patients have been asked to stay in their rooms, and only one relative is allowed to come visit.

The potential impact of the Covid-19 virus on the regional health system can be gauged by the fact that authorities on Tuesday issued a public notice of selection of medical graduates to add to a reserve pool for the coming six months. The notice stipulates that candidates “will not undergo tests” and will be selected “on the basis of training, experience and languages, including the Basque language.”

The notice was released while the Basque premier, Iñigo Urkullu, was presiding a crisis Cabinet meeting to analyze the latest developments.

English version by Susana Urra.

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