300 Spanish villages remain covid-free

by Deborah Cater
Agulo on La Gomera, one of 300 villages which remain covid-free
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After more than a year, during which Spain faced three epidemiological waves, there are still places which remain covid-free. Is there a secret behind this natural immunity, or are some villages just plain lucky?

The village of Agulo in the Canary Island of La Gomera, Caracuel de Calatrava in Ciudad Real, Bolulla in Alicante and Longas in Aragón are examples of Spanish locations where the covid counter has remained at zero since the start of the pandemic. That’s just a small selection, as a total of 300 villages have managed to stay under the Covid radar for more than a year. What do these villages have in common?

Low population density and little mobility

First, all covid-free villages in Spain have a low population density. Yet that is not the only factor explaining this envious phenomenon. The degree to which the population complies with the precautionary measures certainly also plays a major role. But according to epidemiologist Juan Martínez, it is also coincidence, or in this case pure luck.

In the municipality of Cedrillas (Teruel), for example, even before the announcement of lockdown, the citizens were fanatical about home isolation. Despite strict adherence to prevention measures, 203 people died of covid-19 in Teruel in November last year, or 568 corona deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile the nationwide mortality started at 210 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. This shows a low population density coupled with strict adaptation to the situation is no guarantee for a covid-free society.

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First contamination has major consequences for remote areas

Spokesman Salvador Peiró of the Spanish Association for Public Health (Sespas) also emphasises the fact that a society with little social interaction also needs a good portion of luck to remain completely covid-free. The arrival of the virus may be delayed in remote parts of Spain. However, if sooner or later the virus arrives, the consequences are often great. That’s as a result of no immunity build-up within the population. 

In addition, the average age in these rural villages is high. That makes the inhabitants even more vulnerable to the consequences of the corona virus. After all, 95% of deceased covid patients are 65 years or older. With this knowledge, various rural municipalities keep their village borders closed on weekends to protect themselves.

Vaccine is the sole guarantee

According to Martínez, the 300 covid-free villages in Spain may still consider themselves lucky; but they do not have any guarantee they will escape the virus. That certainty is only there when a significant proportion of the inhabitants are vaccinated. As long as that is not the case, it is pure coincidence when there are no infections. Simialrly, it is pure coincidence that a number of care homes in Spain have been able to keep the corona virus at bay during the entire pandemic.

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