Spanish police have broken up a ‘coronavirus party’ where guests were allegedly trying to spread the disease on purpose – as the country suffers a sharp rebound in cases with infections rising across Europe.
More than 60 people were found camping on an out-of-bounds Tenerife beach in what police called a ‘get-together on the beach to spread Covid-19’.
Civil Guard officers swooped to shut down the gathering with youngsters forced to dismantle their tents, but officials say the party was a ‘very serious threat’ after Spain suffered more than 25,000 new cases in the last week.
Spain has already been hit with new travel restrictions in a blow to its tourism-reliant economy, while there are fears that France, Germany or Holland could be put back on the UK’s quarantine list after spikes in cases there.
Summer holidays have been blamed for rising cases in Germany and Italy, while France has tightened its face mask rules in tourist hotspots such as Paris and the Mediterranean resort of Saint Tropez.
However, Europe has yet to see a major spike in deaths or hospital cases, amid signs that many of those testing positive are young and less vulnerable to the disease.
Rising cases: Spain has suffered a severe spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as this graph shows, while France, Germany and Italy have also seen upticks in new infections
A Spanish Civil Guard officer watches on as youngsters dismantle their tents on a closed Tenerife beach where guests are alleged to have attended a ‘get-together to spread Covid-19
Spain has suffered the worst spike of recent weeks, prompting several countries including Britain and Germany to impose new travel restrictions.
The Mediterranean country announced nearly 26,000 new infections in the last seven days, up from 16,000 the week before and fewer than 2,000 in late June.
Catalonia alone saw more than 5,000 cases in the space of a week, while the nearby region of Aragon had the country’s highest infection rate per 100,000 people.
Los Patos beach on Tenerife, where the alleged ‘coronavirus party’ took place, is traditionally a well-known nudist beach on the Canary Islands which have been lobbying for an exemption from Britain’s quarantine rules.
La Orotava Town Hall’s security department said in a statement: ‘Civil Guard and local police have cleared Los Patos beach where 62 people were camping.
‘The Civil Guard has intercepted a get-together on the beach to spread Covid-19 in an area where access is currently prohibited.’
La Orotava’s Security Councillor Narciso Perez said the police operation came after investigators discovered the planned beach party on social media.
He told local press: ‘Over the past few days, Civil Guard officers have discovered a kind of get-together which was being planned on social media to carry out a mass camping trip to Los Patos beach designed to help the spread of Covid-19.
‘This is a threat which has been taken very seriously. The Civil Guard has carried out a thorough investigation to identify those people who organised this and they have been questioned.’
Despite Spain’s increase in cases, only 46 virus patients were admitted to intensive care in the week up to last Friday, compared to more than 20,000 people who tested positive for the virus.
The death toll has generally remained in single figures despite the recent increase, with only 16 fatalities in the week to Thursday. The total is 28,503.
Spanish authorities on the Tenerife beach where dozens of people were found camping in an alleged ‘coronavirus party’
The Tenerife beach (pictured) on the Canary Islands, which has been lobbying for an exemption from Britain’s quarantine rule
Neighbouring France has piled up 10,002 new cases in the last week, the highest number since April and a sharp increase from 7,391 the week before.
The government’s Covid-19 scientific council warned last week that France could ‘at any moment’ lose control over the spread of the disease.
Some French towns are now requiring face masks outdoors, including the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez and other tourist areas.
Paris and Marseille, the two largest cities in France, have both ordered mask-wearing in crowded outdoor areas such as open-air markets and the banks of the Seine.
‘All the indicators show that since mid-July the virus is again circulating more actively in the region,’ the Paris police said, adding that the 20-30 age group was particularly affected by the latest spike in cases.
There are also fears that France could be next to be removed from the UK’s ‘travel corridor’ list after quarantine rules were re-imposed for Spain and Belgium.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Friday that Britain would ‘not hesitate’ to toughen its quarantine rules amid rising infection rates across the continent. Portugal currently remains off-limits.
Norway has already ordered arrivals from France to quarantine for 10 days, saying that the epidemic is ‘moving in the wrong direction’.
However, the number of severe cases has not risen in France, with around 5,000 people currently in hospital compared to more than 30,000 in April.
Deaths have also been stagnant, with 68 coronavirus deaths in hospital last week compared to 74 the week before.
People wear face masks in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where coverings have become compulsory in some crowded outdoor areas amid surging infections in France
Pupils sit in a classroom in Berlin, as some German schools start to return despite a worrying rise in cases around the country
Germany meanwhile suffered nearly 6,000 new infections from Monday to Sunday, marking the fourth consecutive week-on-week increase.
The closely-watched R rate has been above the critical 1.0 threshold for most of the last month, meaning the epidemic is on the rise.
German officials are worried because cases are spreading across the country, unlike previous spikes linked to particular factories or apartment blocks. Only 55 districts have seen no new cases in the last seven days, down from 117 a month ago.
Tourists returning from abroad have partly been blamed for the increase, along with ‘larger family events’ and leisure activities since the lockdown was eased.
Some pupils are already back at school, but two schools in the east of the country were forced to close on Friday after new cases were detected.
While the daily death toll remains low, the 49 new fatalities in the last seven days are an increase on 37 the week before.
The UK yesterday announced more than 1,000 new cases in a day for the first time since June 26, prompting fears of the rebound in infections spreading to Britain.
Boris Johnson’s government has been pushing businesses to return to work, despite the number of virus cases showing signs of increasing.
Young people sunbathe at the Marineterrein on a sunny day in Amsterdam last Friday, after the Dutch government announced that virus cases had doubled in the space of a week
Italy too has seen a rise in cases, although the figures are currently lower than in Britain, Germany, France or Spain.
The last seven days saw 2,497 new cases in Italy, up from 1,970 the week before, and Friday’s figure of 552 new cases was the highest since May 28.
The regional governor of Veneto, which includes Venice, said new cases were being driven by tourists returning home from Spain, Malta, Peru, Croatia and Greece.
‘Everyone must decide where they want to go on vacation, but it’s also true, that by us, for a couple of weeks now, we’re seeing a concentration of patients who were infected on vacation,’ governor Luca Zaia said.
The Italian Health Ministry says the average age of infected persons in recent weeks has dropped to 40, compared to about 61 during the height of the crisis.
Only 45 people are currently in intensive care, compared to several thousand in April, while the majority of the 13,000 ‘active’ patients are isolating at home.
Italy’s death toll rose by 51 in the last week, taking the total to 35,205, compared to an increase of 48 the week before.
Elsewhere, the Dutch government said on Tuesday that cases had doubled in a week, with a particular spike in the province of South Holland.
The positive tests included more than 200 people who had recently returned from abroad, including from Spain, France, Belgium and Germany.
A quarter of the new patients are aged between 20 and 29, according to official figures, while the country’s R rate was estimated at 1.2.