A hilltop fortress town in Spain that cut itself off from the rest of the world in a bid to tackle coronavirus has not recorded a single case among its inhabitants.
Zahara de la Sierra sits high above the Andalusian countryside in southern Spain.
On March 14, the same day Spain announced it was extending its state of alarm, the town’s mayor Santiago Galván, 40, blocked all but one of its five entrances.
Zahara de la Sierra, high in the Andusian mountains, was once fought over by the Moors and Christians in the Medieval times because of its perfect position overlooking a valley
Since then Spain has recorded more than 117,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 11,000 deaths.
But not one single case of Covid-19 has been recorded among Zahara’s 1,400 inhabitants, more than two weeks after the town cut itself off.
The checkpoint on the one road into the town that remains open is manned by a single police officer.
Two men wearing protective clothing normally used for spraying the olive groves wash every vehicle that enters with bleach and water. Each vehicle must also drive through a make-shift ditch to disinfect its tyres.
The town’s mayor has introduced intense measures to keep Covid-19 out. Every day 10 people walk the streets with disinfection machines. Another business pays two women to deliver medical supplies and groceries to residents to reduce footfall in the town
He added: ‘There is no car that comes through the checkpoint that’s not disinfected. We have managed to give tranquility to our neighbours. They know no one unknown can come in.’
Other sanitation measures introduced in the town include disinfection procedures.
Galván said that every Monday and Thursday at 5:30pm around 10 people disinfect the town, streets, plazas and outside homes of Zahara de la Sierra.
Zahara de la Sierra is in the province of Cádiz and around an hour’s drive away from Seville
One local farmer, Antonio Atienza, drives his tractor through the town and sprays the streets.
Another local business pays two women to deliver groceries and medical supplies to residents for around 11 hours a day.
Each vehicle that enters the town’s one remaining access point must drive through a make-shift ditch to ensure their tyres are disinfected. Two men wearing protective clothing wash every vehicle with bleach and water
WHAT ARE THE CORONAVIRUS SYMPTOMS?
The virus, called COVID-19, is transmitted from person to person via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes.
It can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles or railings.
Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms including a sore throat, headache, fever, cough or trouble breathing.
Severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory illness, kidney failure and death.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
One of the women, Auxi Rascon, 48, told CNN: ‘They [the residents] are very happy, because they don’t need to go out, they feel protected and feel confident.
‘They took the right measures at the right moment, and now we are seeing the results.’
The mayor’s drastic action has had the full support of the townspeople, of which nearly a quarter are older than 65.
The Zaharilla women’s association also arranges basic repairs for elderly residents who need help. A Facebook page created for older residents has started a drive to get old photos online.
To keep spirits high, Galvan said that two cars have been fitted with music and lights that children can look at from their balconies.
Much of Zahara’s economy is provided by family-run businesses and the self-employed.
Galván that the town council has dipped into its contingency fund to cover electricity, water and taxes costs for local businesses during the national state of emergency.
Spain is the country most affected by the coronavirus in Europe after Italy and a state of emergency has been in place since March 14. In a bid to keep spirits high two cars in Zahara de la Sierra have been fitted with music and lights (pictured) to entertain children who watch from their balconies.
Spain has recorded the first drop in its daily death toll since March 26
He said that ultimately, though, Zahara will need financial support from Madrid or the regional government.
The fortress town is just an hour from Seville and a popular destination for tourists who flock to see its white houses and narrow streets that cling to the steep hillside, complete with medieval fortifications and rolling olive groves.
Galván said that they had to turn away French and German tourists who were unaware of the town’s measures in the first few days after he blocked the entrances.