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14 Mar 2020 | 09:08 AM UTC

Spain: Government activates state of alert nationwide amid COVID-19 March 14 /update 6

Spanish government activates state of alert nationwide as COVID-19 cases increase March 14; follow all authority directives

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Event

On Saturday, March 14, the Spanish Government activated a state of alert as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases soars in the country. The State of Alarm confers to the government exceptional powers to limit the free movement of people and vehicles, ration goods and services, among other powers. Residents are therefore to restrict all movement with the exception of those going to work, hospitals or health centers, financial institutions, and those shopping for groceries, pharmaceuticals, and basic necessities.

Private vehicles will also be allowed to circulate on public roads to carry out the permitted activities or to refuel at gas stations or service stations. The Ministry of Interior, however, may decide to limit, ban, or partially ban traffic on highways. Public transportation services by rail, road, air, and sea will be reduced by up to 50 percent. The decree will also close schools, bars, restaurants, shops, and other public spaces. Specifics of the state of alert will continue to emerge through March 14.

The decision comes after individual regions implemented their own restrictions. The Generalitat de Catalunya asked residents to stay indoors as of Friday, March 13, and asked Madrid to close borders, ports, airports, and railways in the region. The Basque Country administration announced that bars, restaurants, museums, and places of worship would be closed starting Sunday, March 15, for 15 days. Residents are also obliged to keep a distance of one and a half meters (five feet) from one another. The Community of Madrid previously ordered the closure of all establishments and shops "except food and basic necessities," until Thursday, March 26.

Authorities had also previously banned indoor gatherings of more than 1000 people in the Madrid, La Rioja, Vitoria, and Labastida regions. Schools in the worst affected regions of Madrid, the Basque Country, and La Rioja will be closed for two weeks as a precautionary measure starting from Wednesday, March 11.

As of March 14, there are 5232 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 133 deaths and 193 recoveries. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate business disruptions, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.  
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.