MADRID (AP) — A tourist hotel in the Canary Islands was placed in quarantine Tuesday after an Italian doctor staying there tested positive for the new coronavirus, evidence that the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe is spreading with vacationing Italians.
The doctor hailed from Italy’s north, which has registered most of Italy’s 283 cases. He was placed in isolation at a clinic in Tenerife. The H10 Adeje Palace hotel was locked down, and its 1,000 tourists prevented from leaving, according to Spanish news media and the press office for the town of Adeje.
The Canary Islands, an archipelago located some 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the African coast, is a popular vacation destination that attracts Europeans year-round. Many Italians are vacationing this week as schools have a mid-winter break.
The virus also spread via tourists travelling within in Italy, as the southern island of Sicily reported a positive case from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in northern Lombardy. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, well south of the epicenter.
She and her husband were put in isolation, and officials were tracing their contacts to try to contain the spread on the autonomous island, Sicily’s regional government said.
Civil protection officials on Tuesday reported a large jump of cases in Italy, from 222 to 283. Seven people have died, all of them elderly people suffering other pathologies.
Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters and canceled Venice’s Carnival and Masses in the two regions where clusters have formed — Lombardy and Veneto. Police and soldiers are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.
Premier Giuseppe Conte shocked Lombardy officials by taking to task the hospital in Codogno, southeast of Milan, where Italy’s first positive patient went Feb. 18 with flu-like symptoms. The man was sent home, only to return a short time later with worsening conditions, at which point he was tested for the virus.
Many of Lombardy’s positive tests have a traceable connection to the Codogno hospital, including several doctors and nurses, patients and relatives who visited them.
Conte told reporters that the Lombardy cluster grew “because of the hospital management that wasn’t completely proper according to the protocols that are recommended for these cases.”
“This surely contributed to the spread,” he said.
Lombardy’s chief health official, Giulio Gallera, expressed shock at Conte’s remarks and defended the region’s handling of the crisis.
“It’s offensive. It’s unacceptable,” Gallera said, noting that the man presented none of the main risk factors for the virus — travel to China or contact with an infected person — when he first went to the emergency room.
The man was eventually tested after doctors ascertained from his wife that he had met with someone who had recently returned from China. But officials have excluded that contact as the source of the outbreak since that person tested negative.
There was surely a political component to Conte’s remarks, given he is head of a national government run by the 5-Star Movement in coalition with the Democratic Party, and Lombardy is headed by the right-wing League, which is now the main opposition force in parliament.
Winfield reported from Rome. Aritz Parra contributed from Madrid.