Spain holidays are normally hugely popular with British travellers. But the landscape of Spanish getaways is very different now. It’s more face masks and hand sanitiser than sangria and summer romance.
And now soldiers are being sent into the streets of Spain and its holiday islands for the first time since the height of the coronavirus crisis.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered the services of some 3,000 military personnel last week in a bid to speed up coronavirus tracking.
Destinations on the mainland as well as on the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands accepted the offer.
The soldiers are now flying in to locations such as Valencia, the Canaries, Balearics and Ceuta (a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa) to provide expert help.
Their role is primarily to track contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The troops have received specialist training and will remain on the streets “as long as they are needed”.
The move comes as Spain hits an accumulated figure of 554,143 positive cases of coronavirus and 29,699 deaths.
The Ministry of Health today announced 10,764 new coronavirus infections, 4,137 in the previous 24 hours, as well as 249 deaths in the last week.
More than a third of these were in Madrid, although the ministry has observed a slowdown in growth rates of new positives.
Director of the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, said that in half of the provinces a stabilisation of the number of new infections has been detected, if not a decrease.
He stressed that “without celebrating too early,” the fatality rate of the disease was already very low in Spain.
Simón claimed the Spanish death rate was one of the lowest alongside Germany’s in the entire EU because most COVID cases were mild and there had been an improvement in treatments for the disease.
The rate of positives in the last 14 days in Spain as a whole is 234 per 100,000 inhabitants, led again by Madrid, with 535 positives, followed by La Rioja and the Basque Country, with more than 370.
To help with tracking, Majorca and Ibiza have asked for 100 soldiers who begin their work on Friday (September 10), with the team incorporating a psychologist to help anyone suffering from trauma.
Some of the tracking involves trying to contact dozens of people who have been near patients tested positive.
In Gran Canaria, one so-called super-spreader is believed to have infected at least 140 people which has multiplied the task of finding all possible contacts.
The soldiers will also be at work in the Canary Islands, including Tenerife, and in other locations on the mainland, including 300 in Valencia.
Pedro Sanchez said they would be playing a vital role so communities could act “more effectively in the face of the pandemic.”
He called for “the unity of all, of the political forces, of the institutions and of the whole of Spanish society against the common enemy, which is the virus.”
The UK government continues to warn against all non-essential travel to Spain and anyone returning from the country needs to quarantine for 14 days.
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot.
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