80-person lunch led to coronavirus outbreak in Igualada

Authorities reveal origin of infections in town sealed off in Central Catalonia that have caused 24 covid-19 deaths so far

Front door of the Igualada hospital (by ACN)
Front door of the Igualada hospital (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 20, 2020 01:26 PM

With the death toll due to covid-19 infections in the Central Catalonian town of Igualada rising to 24 this week, with nine deaths in a single day, the Catalan authorities have investigated the source of the outbreak and shared the findings on Friday.

Since the beginning of the outbreak in and around the town with a population of 39,000 people, some 207 people have so far tested positive for coronavirus, seven of whom are in a critical state, and 91 of whom are health professionals.

In fact, the authorities say that the outbreak that has led to the town and three others nearby being completely sealed off by police can be traced back to a lunch held on February 28 that was attended by 80 people, many of whom work in Igualada Hospital.

From the lunch, the infection was traced to two groups, one in the hospital and one in a family of five, a member of which attended the meal. Catalan health minister Alba Vergés said that since then the hospital "has had within it many vectors of transmission."

Praise for hospital and staff

However, the minister was also at pains to praise the hospital for how it has dealt with the coronavirus outbreak and she highlighted the professionalism of its employees. Vergés also said that from now on Barcelona's Bellvitge Hospital will provide Igualada with support.

As for the mayor of Igualada, Marc Castells, he stressed the "extreme seriousness" of the situation and warned that what has happened in his town is a "spoiler" for what is likely to happen in the whole of Catalonia in the coming days.

"The situation is going from serious to very serious. I insist, please, that we continue to follow the confinement protocols, as it is more important than ever that everyone be aware of the situation we are subject to," he added.

Face mask controversy 

Igualada was also in the news this week when Vergés and Castells complained to the state authorities about a shipment of medical equipment, including 4,000 face masks destined for Igualada hospital, being impounded by the Guardia Civil.

However, on Friday, the hospital authorities said the institution is "at breaking point" and said that the situation is such that the 4,000 face masks that were supposed to arrive would not have lasted for more than a week.

Meanwhile, in the town itself, the local authorities stressed the need to stay at home except for essential outings, such as to buy food or go to work, and said that the fines issued for unjustified breaking of the confinement would be increased.

Rec festival canceled

Also on Friday, Rec.0 Experimental Stores, which organizes the town's annual festival of pop-up fashion stores, announced that this year's event that was to be held in May has been canceled until further notice.