Spain reports its first coronavirus death

Infections push past the 200 mark while Israel announces that travelers from Spain and other countries will be quarantined

An ambulance outside a hospital in Valencia, where the first coronavirus death was reported.
An ambulance outside a hospital in Valencia, where the first coronavirus death was reported.Monica Torres

Spain has reported its first death from the Covid-19 coronavirus. On Tuesday night, authorities in the Valencia region announced that a 69-year-old man who died of pneumonia on February 13 had contracted the disease, as confirmed by a post-mortem test conducted recently.

The news comes as the total number of reported infections rose to 202 on Wednesday afternoon. The government of Israel has issued orders to quarantine all travelers from Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria over coronavirus fears.

Also on Wednesday, authorities confirmed that three children have contracted the coronavirus, one in Madrid and the two others in Castilla-La Mancha. This is the first time that cases involving minors have been reported even though there are around 200 known cases in Spain. And a 49-year-old man has become the first recorded case in the northwestern region of Galicia.

“Based on the experience of thousands of cases in China, children are less intensely affected,” said Simón. “In general their clinical evolution is more benign, and the mortality rate is very low.” The largest epidemiological study conducted to date on Chinese infections shows that out of 44,000 cases, only 0.9% were children up to nine years of age, and 1.2% were 10- to 19-year-olds.

For now, said Simón, “it is not necessary to shut down schools” as Italy is planning to do.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Health Ministry has issued a recommendation for large sports events involving teams from risk areas to be played behind closed doors. The decision affects several upcoming soccer and basketball matches: Valencia-Atalanta on March 10, Getafe-Inter on March 19, Girona-Venezia on March 19, and Valencia Basket-Armani Milan on Thursday of this week.

Valencia death

Spain’s first official fatality from the coronavirus is a 69-year-old man who was admitted into Arnau Hospital in Vilanova, in the province of Valencia, and who died of pneumonia on February 13.

At that point, the criteria for conducting coronavirus tests still included travel to China, and the man – who had been to Nepal but not to China – was not checked for the disease. It was only when the Health Ministry announced on February 27 that all unexplained cases of serious pneumonia would be tested that a post-mortem analysis was conducted.

Cancelled events

Besides the new recommendations for sports events involving teams from northern Italy, Iran, China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, Health Minister Salvador Illa is also advocating cancelling all upcoming medical conferences.

“We need health personnel to be completely available in the coming weeks to attend the needs of the population, if necessary,” he said on Tuesday. The decision follows news that at least 13 health care workers in the Basque Country have been infected with the coronavirus. Around 100 more healthcare workers are in isolation, out of a total of 220 who are being monitored for signs of the coronavirus.

Economic aid

The Spanish government is preparing extraordinary measures to inject liquidity into companies in the event that the coronavirus crisis get worse. The move follows similar steps by the Italian government to provide economic assistance to its own business community.

The Labor Ministry on Wednesday issued guidelines telling companies to halt activities if there is a risk of coronavirus transmission at the workplace. Vodafone España has already told its 2,200 employees at Madrid headquarters to work from home on Friday to test the feasibility of remote working, anticipating the possibility that the coronavirus crisis could force more people to stay home.

And the carmaker Seat believes there could be supply problems at its plant in Martorell (Barcelona) by early April, due to a lack of parts from China.

English version by Susana Urra.

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