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Surge in coronavirus cases on the Costa del Sol sees schools close for two weeks

Surge in coronavirus cases on the Costa del Sol sees schools close for two weeks
/ EP
  • The regional authority announced the decision to close all education centres and cancel activities from Monday 16 March

  • Confirmed cases have soared to almost 3,000 across Spain as special measures have been brought in to slow the virus’s spread

A surge in new cases of the coronavirus this week saw Malaga city, the Guadalhorce valley and the Costa del Sol declared special containment areas on Wednesday evening. This came hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a “global pandemic”.

According to the latest update offered by the regional Ministry of Health and Families on Thursday evening, in the province of Malaga there were 97 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (138 across the region). This means that confirmed cases of contagion in Malaga province account for almost 70 per cent of the total across Andalucía.

Among those that have tested positive in Malaga province, the majority have been told to self-isolate at home while under medical surveillance. Others, especially those with coronavirus-induced pneumonia, have been admitted to various hospitals across the Costa del Sol.

Special measures

Following a special meeting of the Andalusian government cabinet, presided over by regional president Juanma Moreno on Wednesday, a range of new measures were announced to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the region.

Regional vice-president Juan Marín explained that disproportionate number of cases in Malaga “is due to the fact that it is an area with a large movement of people”, referencing the city’s airport which welcomes a large number of tourists.

Malaga Airport was unusually quiet on Wednesday afternoon.

Malaga Airport was unusually quiet on Wednesday afternoon. / Salvador Salas

On Thursday night president Juanma Moreno announced that all schools and other education centres would close across Andalucía for two weeks.

Among the measures agreed upon were the daily disinfection of public transport facilities, the suspension of events in which more than 1,000 people are gathered and the recommendation that schoolchildren and students should not travel abroad.

Marín sent out a message of reassurance as there is “a prevention and containment plan and a health system ready to respond”.

He added: “We are at a first level of containment and the necessary measures are being taken in coordination with the state government, which is leading the effort because this is a national health alert.”

As a special containment zone, the regional Health ministry has decreed specific and preventive measures to protect the elderly population. These include the suspension of activities in day stay units and in day centres.

Across the whole of Andalucía, the 168 Junta-run ‘active participation centres’ have been closed and it has also been recommended to close the 485 owned by councils and the 90 private centres as preventive measures for the population at greatest risk.

Despite the new Junta classification, however, Andalucía only accounts for 4.5 per cent of all cases in Spain and, to date, no deaths have been registered in the region despite the current mortality rate of Covid-19 standing at around two per cent.

Levels of concern, however, are still high. Between 25 February and 11 March, the Junta de Andalucía’s Salud Responde platform handled 17,442 enquiries about coronavirus. In the vast majority of cases, those concerned they had contracted the virus did not qualify for testing having not been to a high-risk area nor having had contact with anyone confirmed to have had Covid-19.

Spain

The coronavirus epidemic in Spain grew at an alarming rate this week with 2,968 confirmed cases and 84 deaths (the majority of them elderly with existing health conditions) recorded across the country by Thursday evening. These numbers show a sharp rise compared to the 580 cases confirmed at the end of last week.

With the acceleration of the spread of the virus, the director of the Centre for Coordination and Health Emergencies, Fernando Simón, warned on Wednesday that measures to halt the epidemic could take up to four months to start showing results.

The incidence of Covid-19 has grown significantly in the Madrid autonomous community this week where panic buying has accelerated as rumours started to spread of a potential region-wide lockdown.