Coronavirus Superspreader May Have Infected 140 People on Spanish Island

A superspreading event in a city on one of Spain's Canary Islands is thought to have caused more than 140 people to catch the coronavirus and trigger an outbreak in the tourist hotspot, according to officials.

The Canary Islands reported 7,325 coronavirus cases and 174 deaths as of September 1, with the city of Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria island, making up 3,269 of the cases, according to its government. That amounts to 44 percent of the total recorded on the archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa, including active and resolved cases.

Professor Lluis Serra Majem of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a spokesperson for the Canarian government's scientific advisory committee, told Spain's El Pais newspaper the city's outbreak is likely linked to one or more superspreaders from Spain attending nightspots in the Guanarteme neighborhood.

Majem said "barely any" cases were reported in July, creating a false sense of security. Now, the average age of those infected has fallen due to the nightlife sector, and most people are asymptomatic, making it harder to ensure carriers stay at home, he said.

According to El Pais, between August 14 to August 28, the number of active cases in the city rose by a factor of 7.2, from 246 to 1,965.

The superspreading event likely transmitted the virus to more than 140 people and "could have been the main cause of the outbreak [in the city]," Majem said. The Guanarteme neighborhood is to the west of Las Palmas' Playa de las Canteras beach.

Amós García Rojas, the head of the epidemiology service at the Canarian public health department, told El Pais the outbreak originated in the nightlife sector and then in family meet-ups, leading to "fast transmission."

He said: "It's evident that when there is a spread like this it is because people haven't respected the guidelines."

In mid-August, the Canary Islands banned smoking when people cannot be 6.5 feet from each other, mandated face masks in public at all times, limited gatherings to 10 people, and the capacity of night clubs, Reuters reported. Regional leader Angel Victor Torres pointed to an increase in positive cases at the time.

The report of the superspreading incident comes as Spain's COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference on Monday, according to Reuters, that Spain had reported more than 23,000 coronavirus cases since Friday. That was down from almost 10,000 infections in a day on August 21, the highest numbers since the peak in March.

Spain has reported almost 463,000 coronavirus cases and more than 29,000 deaths, of a global total of 25.5 million diagnoses and over 851,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Playa de Las Canteras, gran canaria, getty
A stock image shows Playa de Las Canteras, the location of a superspreading event in Spain. Getty