The Canary Islands Government’s Health Minister, Jesús López, has said that one other passenger with symptoms was also detected on the same flight, who has been transferred to hospital for initial coronavirus tests.
Prevention protocols were suddenly activated while the plane was in mid-flight, after the Public Health department of the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha, in the central region of mainland Spain between Madrid and Valencia, communicated results of coronavirus tests to members of a family, from Ciudad Real, who had been in contact with a patient, the mother of the man, who died with coronavirus.
Sources from the Canarian and Castilian-La Mancha governments have confirmed that the passenger had travelled from Lanzarote to Ciudad Real to be with his mother during her last days of life, as the family had been notified that the woman, who was suffering from cancer, was already in a terminal phase.
Once the man had arrived at the health centre, where his mother was a patient, he was informed that she had also tested positive for COVID-19, so he was allowed no direct contact with her. His mother passed away on May 23.
He did have contact with his father though, and with his brothers, who in turn had had contact with the patient before she was diagnosed and quarantined. As a consequence, PCR tests were carried out on the entire family, including the son who had arrived from Lanzarote.
At that time, health personnel told the man that he was not to travel until he had received the results, sources consulted at the governments of Castilla-La Mancha and the Canary Islands confirm this to be the case.
Despite this advice, the man took a plane from Madrid to Lanzarote on the morning of Friday, May 29. Shortly after take-off, the results arrived, and Castilia-La Mancha Ministry of Health officials tried to communicate them to the family members by phone, but when they could not locate him, they resorted to notifying his relatives.
Sources from the Canary Islands Ministry of Health have indicated that the passenger’s sister was able to contact him and informed him of the positive test results. She too had just learned that morning that she had contracted COVID-19 and was also waiting to catch a plane in the next few days, flying to another European country.
The passenger himself informed the crew and pilot of the plane of his diagnosis, invoking in-flight protocols with instructions for him to be seated and isolated in the rear seats of the aircraft for the rest of the flight.
Thirteen other travellers were also ordered into isolation upon arrival on Lanzarote having occupied the two rows ahead of his, or those seats closest to him, along with another passenger with whom he had been talking for about fifteen minutes at the airport.
In principle, the protocol stipulates that all of them serve 14 days of quarantine, while new tests are carried out.
The director of Spain’s Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, has highlighted the speed with which all involved have acted, identifying and isolating a COVID-19 positive passenger, who was in flight from Ciudad Real to Lanzarote, all within 4 hours of the facts being discovered.
“It is a clear example of early detection” said Simon in his daily appearance before the Spanish media to report on all Spain’s latest pandemic data.
Canarian Minister of Health, Julio Pérez, praised the man for immediately identifying himself to the flight crew, helping to limit risk to other passengers, but warned that legal proceedings will have to be initiated because this passenger had failed to comply with instructions to wait for the results of the tests before travelling.
He added too that another passenger appeared to be presenting symptoms and so was sent to hospital to undergo tests.
The Cabildo de Lanzarote have additionally offered all those who were on the plane the option to staying in an aparthotel, in conditions of voluntary isolation, just in case they may prefer to be away from their families for a while. Thirty-five travellers have accepted the offer, a spokesperson for the Canary Islands Ministry of Health told Efe.
Until the State of Emergency ends, flights from the Peninsula to the Canary Islands can only be taken by people who can prove that they are returning to their primary residence, travelling for work, are going to take care of a relative or have other acceptable reasons such as force majeure. Everyone travelling is expected to to make a declaration regarding their health and suitability to travel.