Coronavirus: Foreign Office advises against travel to parts of Spain

13 March 2020, 12:02 | Updated: 13 March 2020, 17:22

The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to certain regions in Spain.

The restricted areas are Madrid, La Rioja and the municipalities of La Bastida, Vitoria and Miranda de Ebro.

It comes after an almost 50% increase of coronavirus cases in just 24 hours. The total for Madrid and the surrounding region is 2,000.

Authorities have closed all schools, nurseries, universities, sports centres, theatres and day care centres for the elderly until further notice.

National museums such as El Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía have been closed and festivals and sporting events cancelled.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo wrote that bars, restaurants and shops would close, while El Independiente said this would not apply to supermarkets and pharmacies.

The government announced it would pool intensive care units and consider offers by hotel chains to transform rooms into sick wards.

Spain is now the second hardest hit European country next to Italy with 120 reported deaths associated with COVID-19. Some 56 are in Madrid.

Spanish media reported that the government is to declare a stare of emergency over the outbreak.

The current Spanish tally stands at 4,209, up by about 1,000 cases from Thursday and seven times as many as
on Sunday.

It has been reported that the surge in cases could be due to an International Women's Day march which was attended by thousands of people on Sunday.

An FCO spokesman said airlines were continuing to run flights as normal to and from these areas, and the travel advice had been updated because they had been designated by the Spanish authorities as "areas of community transmission".

The Foreign Office is not currently advising against travel to other areas of Spain, or suggesting that British nationals in the country leave, as transport routes out remain open.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU will establish a €37bn investment initiative as part of a package of measures to cushion the bloc's economies from the impact of coronavirus.

The EU will also guarantee €8bn in loans to 100,000 firms to support the corporate sector, Ms von der Leyen said.

"I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock," she said. "But each member state needs to live up to its full responsibility and the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united."