CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus outbreak at Bilbao hospital worsens, with five new infections and 37 total cases

The Basque Country authorities are investigating another possible spike in Gipuzkoa and are preparing measures to avoid contagion among visitors

Healthcare workers at Basurto hospital wait in line on Saturday to undergo coronavirus tests.
Healthcare workers at Basurto hospital wait in line on Saturday to undergo coronavirus tests.FERNANDO DOMINGO-ALDAMA

An outbreak of the coronavirus at the Basurto hospital, in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao, has now seen a total of 37 people infected. They include 14 health workers, 12 patients and 11 visitors. The number of contagions has risen by five compared to the day before, and there have been two victims since June 4, when two patients in the internal medicine unit first tested positive for the virus.

The Basque Country’s regional health chief, Nekane Murga, explained on Saturday that there have been no more fatalities among the positive cases in the hospital, which was due today to reopen its maternity ward after it was closed on Friday when a woman there tested positive.

PCR tests will be carried out on visitors, who will only be allowed in the hospital if their presence is essential, and temperature checks will be made

Another outbreak detected in the Txagorritxu hospital, in Vitoria, has left seven people infected and one fatality.

The Basque Country authorities are also investigating a third possible outbreak in Alto Deba, Gipuzkoa, after healthcare staff at the Aita Menni hospital tested positive. According to the hospital, four of those infected work in the administration department, while a fifth works in accommodation for people with mental illness. The cases are asymptomatic and were detected thanks to testing being carried out on all staff.

The Basque Country health chief explained at a press conference that a protocol is being prepared to regulate visits to healthcare centers in order to reduce the risks of new outbreaks. PCR tests will be carried out on visitors, who will only be allowed in the hospital if their presence is essential, and temperature checks will be made. Visitors will also have to sign a document promising to take their temperature at home, and notifying of any close contact with at-risk cases.

Surgical assistant Ane Mendiketa criticized the coverage on the basis that a new rash of cases such as this one is “normal” in the context of a pandemic

The alarm was raised at the hospital just as the intensive care unit (ICU) had been emptied of the last Covid-19 patient, and the authorities in the Basque Country – which will be holding regional elections on July 12 – were preparing the end of the deescalation process and the return of mobility between neighboring regions.

A number of journalists and camera crews have been covering the news of the outbreak from a nearby hill, media coverage that surgical assistant Ane Mendiketa criticizes on the basis that a new rash of cases such as this one is “normal” in the context of a pandemic. “Going to a sidewalk café is more risky than going to a hospital,” she said, given that cases can be closely monitored at a healthcare center. “Things aren’t being done properly on the street.”

Union members said they were “worried” about the situation. “It looked like we had scared off the ghost,” said nurse Amaia Mayor, from the Satse union. “But it’s been proved that we can’t relax and that professionals should have better protection measures in their workplace.”

The Basque Country has gone from a peak of 723 positive cases on March 25 to 21 detected via PCR testing on Friday.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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