Police have been deployed to lock down entire blocks of a neighbourhood in Haro, a small town in northern Spain, after dozens of cases of coronavirus were traced back to a funeral held in the nearby Basque country two weeks ago.
Spain has so far confirmed 430 cases of the virus – 60 of which originated among people who attended a funeral service in the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, according to Spain’s National Microbiology Centre.
Thirty-nine of those 60 cases are in the neighbouring La Rioja region, according the local government, with most of them concentrated in the towns of Haro and Casalarreina. About another 25 cases are reported to have been confirmed in the Basque country.
At a press conference on Saturday, the regional health minister and the central government’s representative in La Rioja said the situation called for “exceptional measures and robust action” to halt the spread of the virus.
Although only six people in the region are being treated in hospital, the authorities said police would be “reinforcing home isolation controls” in Haro and limiting access to the town’s health centre.
In a statement, the regional health department said officers from the national police force and the Guardia Civil were being deployed to “guarantee the correct observance of home isolation”.
It also called for the cancellation of events in enclosed spaces and urged people to stay at home and contact the authorities if they believed they had picked up the virus.
“Following the principle of precaution that the department is obliged to abide by, we need to take exceptional measures designed to stop the transmission of the illness between citizens who are not following the advice of the health authorities,” said the regional health minister, Sara Alba.
“We are talking to the national health ministry about the situation in Haro and together we’ve agreed the measures we have taken up to now and are prepared for future scenarios,” she said.
Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, described the outbreak in La Rioja as “a worrying situation” that required “drastic” but necessary measures.
“We’re talking about quarantining whole blocks in a small neighbourhood,” he said on Saturday.
“The situation is ongoing and we don’t know where they are with the measures at the moment.”
On Saturday, it was announced that a prison worker at a facility in Aranjuez, 30 miles (50km) south of Madrid, also tested positive for the virus.
The death toll from the virus in Spain currently stands at 10, while 30 people have been given the all-clear after recovering from the disease.
The virus has prompted Barcelona city council to postpone the Catalan capital’s marathon, which was due to take place on 15 March. The event will now be staged on 25 October.