May 29, 2020 / 11:52 AM / a month ago

Imported novel coronavirus cases return to Spain despite border closure

MADRID (Reuters) - At least 25 imported cases of the coronavirus have been detected in Spain over the past month, health authorities said on Friday, despite a strict ban on foreign tourism imposed since mid-March.

FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the sunny weather at Retiro Park, which reopened yesterday for the first time in more than 2 months, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

With more than 27,000 deaths and over 238,000 confirmed cases, according to the health ministry, Spain is among Europe’s worst-hit nations, though its rate of infection has slowed substantially.

Thirty-nine people died during the past week compared with a daily death toll in the hundreds a month ago, the ministry said.

Authorities are closely monitoring for a resurgence in imports ahead of a planned reopening of borders in July.

“There is a risk. There are still countries with high levels of transmission,” Health Emergency Coordinator Fernando Simon told a news conference.

Valencia’s Regional Health Councillor Ana Barcelo said two people who tested positive after travelling from the United States had likely not complied with a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival.

“They have not travelled directly to Valencia, but stopped at midpoint airports and we don’t know exactly the route they took,” she said on Thursday. Valencian authorities did not disclose any more details when contacted by Reuters on Friday.

Further underscoring the pandemic’s disruptive effects on transport, several travellers on a plane to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands from Madrid were quarantined after a passenger received a positive diagnosis mid-flight.

“Passengers who were two rows ahead and two behind will be isolated as defined by protocol,” the Canary Islands’ health service said.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Madrid satellite town of Torrejon began a free antibody testing program to try and discover how the virus circulated among its 130,000 residents, some of whom queued under the hot sun to have their blood taken by health workers in protective gear.

“I have been very exposed due to my work all this time, and I have never had a test,” said Noelia Arranda, a pharmacy technician. “I believe it’s good for me and for everyone.”

Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Julien Hennequin; additional reporting by Michael Gore, Nathan Allen and Graham Keeley; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Grant McCool

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