As concern grows over the possible spread of the coronavirus to the Region of Murcia and other parts of Spain the latest news on Tuesday morning is that two more possible cases have been ruled out at the Virgen de La Arrixaca hospital in El Palmar, in the outskirts of the city of Murcia, where the patients concerned were kept in isolated care after being admitted on Monday night.
The ministry of Health in the regional government explains that “the protocols are being followed” and maintains that there is no cause for alarm, although it seems that in the last 48 hours the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy, where it has already claimed 7 lives, is leading to those protocols being followed even more rigorously. On Monday two other possible cases were ruled out following the analysis in Madrid of samples taken from a woman who was quarantined in her own home on Sunday and an 18-year-old student from San Javier who was hospitalized in the Arrixaca while the test results were being awaited: both had recently returned from trips to northern Italy.
Meanwhile, much of the attention in the regional press continues to focus on 27 university students from Murcia who are currently “trapped” in Lombardy, after others hurried home as it became clear that the virus had taken hold in parts of the northern Italian region. Over 220 cases of coronavirus have so far been reported in Italy and 7 patients have died, while in Spain the third case to be confirmed concerns an Italian doctor in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.
Among the students on Erasmus study grants in the north of Italy some express concern while others appear to be taking the situation more lightly, but all report that life is going on as far as possible despite classes having been suspended at some universities, gymnasia having been closed and major events such as the Carnival celebrations in Venice having been at least partly cancelled. However, the situation is such that they are hardly leaving their homes, and most have equipped themselves with face masks as a precaution against possible infection.
It should be remembered that the World Health Organization remains on maximum alert due to the coronavirus, and on Monday WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that COVID-19 has “pandemic potential”, but is “not yet there”. On the one hand this is good news, of course, but on the other hand the use of the word “yet” indicates that there can be no certainty that the epidemic will die out as quickly as the SARS outbreak of 2003.
After the latest data showed that there had been over 2,000 cases of coronavirus and 28 deaths outside China – possibly more, if some reports from Iran are to be believed – the WHO leader stated that “our decision about whether to use the word ‘pandemic’ to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society.”
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death,” he continued. “Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear.”