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Gibraltar steps up surveillance as virus cases rise in Spain

Gibraltar has tightened surveillance at entry points including the airport, where posters provide information about coronavirus. Photo: Johnny Bugeja

By Gabriella Peralta and María Jesús Corrales

Spain’s Ministry for Health yesterday confirmed there are five new cases of coronavirus in Andalusia, bringing the total
up to six in the region and prompting authorities in Gibraltar to step up surveillance protocols to ensure early detection
of any cases here.
Latest figures show that there are now 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Spain, with seven new cases confirmed
yesterday.
The developments were being closely followed by the Gibraltar Government, which said the rising number of cases in
Spain meant it was “likely” that cases would soon be detected in and around Gibraltar.
There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Gibraltar but the government confirmed it had now began random
testing of people with respiratory problems, so as to detect any cases as soon as possible.
Coronavirus - also known as Covid-19 - causes flu-like symptoms and in most cases is relatively mild. But like any flu, it
can be serious for people with underlying health problems or those with weaker constitutions.
Health officials in Gibraltar are currently awaiting the results of 13 tests, half of them random. All tests carried out
previously on people who have self-isolated after returning from risk areas have proved negative.
“We are moving over to a new system of taking random samples of those who have respiratory symptoms, to help us
pick up any cases of secondary spread, so half of these [13 tests] consist of tests taken to provide surveillance
information,” the government spokesman said.
“The results have not come back yet. There are no confirmed cases in Gibraltar.”
“Given the spread of the virus in Spain, it is likely that there may soon be cases in the area around Gibraltar and here.”
Earlier this week, a teenager from Tesorillo who had returned from a trip to Italy was rushed to La Linea hospital
showing flu-like symptoms.
The protocol for coronavirus was activated but the child tested negative for the infection.
But while waiting for these results, people took to social media to share their concerns on both sides of the frontier.
The Health Service for the Campo de Gibraltar told the Chronicle that the teenager tested negative for the virus, and
said that from now on, it will no longer announce that it has launched the coronavirus protocol until the tests confirm
the presence of the infection.
Fernando Simon, who is the director for Centre for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies and is leading the
Spanish health service for Coronavirus, yesterday confirmed there 32 cases in Spain as this edition went to press.
Mr Simon explain that two patients in Madrid and one patient in Seville did not have previous links to any of the
countries where the virus has spread rapidly such as Italy, Iran, South Korea or China.
The Spanish health services are conducting a detailed epidemiological study to find out where the infection originated
from.
The patient in Seville remains isolated at the Virgen del Rocio Hospital in Seville, Mr Simon said.
“He started showing symptoms on February 13 and was hospitalised a week later, and isolated on February 24,” Mr Simon said, adding that the hospital is keeping checks to see if the infection has spread to others.
In common with health authorities around the globe including Gibraltar, the Spanish Ministry of Health has published a
document on its website with questions and answers on coronavirus, and with precautions that people should take if they are planning on travelling to the countries where the infection is more widespread.
In addition, public health officials are advising people to wash their hands frequently to avoid passing germs.