The Junta de Andalucía regional government has put in place a special observation plan to calm fears among the general public after the arrival of the Wuhan Zall football team on Wednesday. The Chinese team, from the city where the deadly coronavirus outbreak was first declared, touched down on the Costa del Sol ahead of a training camp in Sotogrande.
The regional Health ministry has said that it would be observing the team, due to stay in the area until 18 February, and the travelling party as a precautionary measure but insisted that none of those who have arrived are showing any symptoms of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and that the maximum incubation period for the virus has now passed.
Common signs of the infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. The virus can pass from human to human, Chinese authorities have confirmed, even before symptoms are displayed.
Enrique Moya, from the regional ministry of Health and Family, was at Malaga Airport on Wednesday and was keen to convey a message of calm: "The first thing I want to convey is reassurance. The circumstances and the absence of symptoms or suspicions make us believe that there isn't the slightest chance of any of the people who make up this expedition having an infection. On 2 January, the team were 1,000 kilometres from the epicentre, training in another city."
Wuhan Zull, now managed by former Malaga CF head coach José González, arrived on the Costa del Sol via Shanghai and Istanbul. At the time of the outbreak, they were training in Guangzhou.
Since last Thursday, the city of Wuhan (with some 11 million inhabitants) has been placed on lockdown with no one allowed to enter or leave. This measure, however, hasn't stopped the virus from spreading outside of China.
The virus has affected more than 4,500 people and some 7,000 people are suspected to be infected. It caused more than 130 deaths in mainland China, spreading to at least 16 other countries. However, like the SARS and influenza viruses, the new coronavirus is a particular risk for elderly people and those with pre-existing illnesses.
"Not walking viruses"
Upon landing at Malaga Airport, coach José González reminded the assembled media that in his squad there are players who "have their families in the quarantine zone".
"I hope that in Spain they find a little empathy. It can't be easy to be so many miles away from your family knowing that they are in the quarantine zone, I hope that we show signs of decency and be sensible," he said.
González also added a phrase which has been going viral on Chinese social media: "They are not walking viruses."
Teams in China are currently in the middle of their winter break and take the opportunity to travel, in most cases to warmer climates, for training.
Wuhan Zall aren't the only team from the city that were expected to arrive in Andalucía. The city's other team, third-division Hubei Chufeng Heli, have had to cancel their trip, organised through the same company, because of the quarantine put in place.
That quarantine won't affect the arrival of Dalian Yifang, managed by former Liverpool and Real Madrid coach Rafael Benítez. Like Wuhan Zall, the side were training in Guangzhou at the time of the outbreak.
Prepared for the first case
The challenge now across the world is to stop the epidemic and prevent the coronavirus from spreading to more countries. As part of these preventive actions, on Monday the regional ministry of Health set up a coronavirus monitoring advisory group in Andalucía - a team made up of ten professionals including members of the boards of directors of the scientific societies of microbiology, preventive medicine and public health, epidemiology and infectious diseases, as well as a European animal public health specialist.
The spokeswoman for the group, Inmaculada Salcedo, stressed that Andalucía is prepared to deal with the coronavirus in the event of a first imported case. She said the main objective of the creation of the group is to protect the population in terms of public health.
Salcedo also stressed the importance of measures to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, among which she cited the use of disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing and frequent hand washing.