A 40-year-old man has been arrested in the Mallorcan town of Manacor in Spain’s Balearic Islands on suspicion of assault for allegedly infecting 22 people with the coronavirus. Eight of them contracted the virus after coming into direct contact with the man at his workplace and at a gym, and another 14 were infected indirectly. According to the National Police, the detainee went to work despite having a fever of 40ºC and walked around his workplace without a face mask, threatening to spread the coronavirus to his colleagues. The individual was placed in custody on Friday and released after appearing before the duty court in Manacor.
According to the National Police, the investigation began in January after a coronavirus outbreak was detected in Manacor, with several contagions reported in the same workplace – a well-known food retailer in the town. Workers told police that one of their workmates could have been responsible for the outbreak, saying he may have hidden the fact that he was sick. Further investigation found that the man had presented coronavirus symptoms but continued to go to work regardless. His colleagues had started to worry because he had a bad cough but refused to go home.
Five workers had spread the virus to several family members, including three one-year-old babies
One day in this period, after finishing work and seeing that his condition was not improving, the man went to a medical center to get a PCR test. But instead of following protocol and staying at home in quarantine until the results came back, he decided to go to work the next day and then afterward to the gym. Both his workmates and the head of the food establishment told him to go home on numerous occasions, arguing he had to remain in isolation as a precaution until he knew the test results. But the man ignored these orders. At the end of that day, he was told he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
During the investigation, workers from the store told police that the 40-year-old had a fever of 40ºC and was walking around the workplace with his mask down, coughing loudly and saying: “I am going to infect you all with Covid.” The workers tried to stay far away from him as they were certain he had the virus.
After the test result came back positive, all the workers from the store had to self-isolate and take a PCR test. Five workers tested positive and they had also spread the virus to several family members, including three one-year-old babies. Another three people were infected at the gym the man went to while he was sick. These three had also spread the virus to their close contacts. A total of 22 people – eight directly and 14 indirectly – had caught the coronavirus from the 40-year-old. No one was hospitalized due to the virus and one of the cases was asymptomatic.
The only thing similar in case law is the case of hepatitis or HIV contagionsLegal expert Alberto García
According to Jaime Campanar, a specialist in criminal law, the man could be charged for willful assault (he knew the possible impact of his actions, although he was not aiming to hurt anyone) or reckless assault for each of the five victims who directly contracted the virus from him. “Technically, the name of the charge, in this case, could be wilful negligence, which consists in not wanting a result, not wanting to hurt or spread a disease,” said Campanar. “There is no willful intent, but there is a high probability of it happening, although the accused is indifferent to whether it ends up happening and does not pay heed to the health conditions that he should have been watching for.”
But for the individual to be charged with reckless assault, the five he directly infected would have had to have needed medical attention, according to Campanar.
Legal expert Alberto García agreed that the only crime the man can be charged with is assault. ”The only thing similar in case law is the case of hepatitis or HIV contagions, that could go down the line of homicide given that it is a deadly illness in many cases,” he said. García added that for a person to be charged with assault, the victim must have suffered some form of physical injury, which casts doubt on whether charges can be pressed for the asymptomatic case.
English version by Melissa Kitson.