14th Jun 2020 @ 9:41 am

Lanzarote has spent weeks with a figure of three positive cases of Covid-19, but a closer look at those cases shows that there is still a lot to learn about the disease.

Two of the three are recovering in a ward at the Dr José Molina Orosa Hospital in Arrecife, where they have been for several weeks.  Both have been in intensive care, and the slowness of their recovery suggests they are older patients.The severity of post-viral conditions in several patients is already becoming evident, and while many patients seem to recover quickly, some others do seem to suffer long, drawn-out recovery periods.

The third patient, however, has been four different people over the last month. In mid-May, a patient was discharged from the hospital, leaving the two above cases as the only ones on Lanzarote for around a week.

Then, on the 29th May,  a flight from Madrid arrived carrying a local resident who had jumped quarantine  after being tested on mainland Spain.  When authorities in Ciudad Real discovered that his test result was positive, they attempted to contact him, only to discover that he was airborne. Emergency services awaited the flight’s arrival and several passengers were quarantined.

On June 6th it was reported that all passengers on the plane had tested negative, including the man who had caused the scare, who presumably had overcome the disease.  Cases briefly went down to to two until the next day.

A migrant boat from Morocco on 4th June brought the next case, a child who later tested positive for Covid-19. However, the child appears to have recovered rapidly and tested negative when a second test was conducted. This child was immediately replaced as the third patient by an adult who had arrived on the same boat and who had tested negative at first, but whose second test gave a positive result.

These results show that tests do not always detect the virus early in its incubation period – one reason why quarantine is not lifted after a first negative test. 

Tracing team

An article in El Diario de Lanzarote describes the jobs of the two doctors and two nurses at the Dr José Molina Orosa Hospital who are responsible for tracing contacts with Covid-19 cases.

Their duties involve telling anyone who has been in contact with a positive case to self-isolate for 14 days or, as is more likely these days, until PCR tests show they are negative. These contacts include family members, work colleagues and anyone else who has been in close contact with the case for sufficient time. The team takes special care monitoring new arrivals at  care homes, women’s refuges and youth care centres.

PCR tests are now carried out at the hospital from a nasal or oral swab,and there is even a drive-in  “Covid Auto” system to take samples from patients without them leaving their own car. Samples are analysed in the laboratory where machines examine three fragments of the nucleic acid sequence. If all three are positive, the test is positive.

As Lanzarote returns to the “new normality”, some companies are carrying out private rapid tests on their employees. A positive result will be referred to the hospital for a PCR test.

The article also reveals that the tracing team are certain that there have been many more cases of Covid-19 than the 88 official cases that have tested positive. The Spanish government’s random antibody test revealed that 1.7% of Lanzarote residents have been exposed to the virus, which would work out at around 2,700 people.

The contact team confirm that this is more or less corresponds to the amount of people who have reported suspected symptoms of the virus since the first cases in March. The majority were  told to self-isolate and treat themselves with paracetamol while hospital staff monitored them daily by phone.