“We have had a major outbreak at an old people's home in Becerril de la Sierra,” said Antonio Zapatero, deputy health chief in the Madrid region, referring to a town in the mountains near the capital.
He said the outbreak, which was first detected on January 7th, infected all 48 residents and 17 staff, with investigations suggesting it may have been caused by the more contagious variant first discovered in Britain in November.
“Five residents died at the home and six people died in hospital,” he said, indicating another five people had also been hospitalised, two of whom were in “a clinically worrying situation”.
“Public health investigations have been carried out… (which) suggest it may be the British strain that caused the outbreak in the nursing home,” he said.
On Monday, a top health ministry official said Spain had so far confirmed 219 cases of the British variant, but by Friday that number had grown to around 350.
“Currently in Spain, around 350 confirmed cases of the British variant have been registered, although we estimate that suspected cases account for between five and 10 percent of the total confirmed cases,” newly-appointed Health Minister Carolina Darias told MPs on Friday.
“The next few weeks will be key in determining whether this variant gradually takes over as it has in other countries,” she said.
Earlier this week, Fernando Simón, the health ministry's emergencies coordinator, said the variant could become the predominant strain in Spain within a month.