Coronavirus: Spanish hilltop town that cut itself off from world has no COVID-19 cases

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ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: Volunteers disinfect the streets of the town with the tractor during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
Volunteers use a tractor to disinfect the streets of Zahara de la Sierra in Spain. (Getty Images)

A hilltop town in Spain that cut itself off from the world a month ago has reported zero cases of coronavirus.

Drastic measures were enforced in the fortress town of Zahara de la Sierra, in Cadiz, Andalusia, when Spain went into a state of emergency on 14 March – and they appear to be working.

The town of 1,400 inhabitants has yet to report a single case of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, despite more than 200,000 cases across Spain so far.

Spain has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world per million of population. According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 20,000 coronavirus deaths in the country.

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20:  A volunteer disinfect the streets of the town during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
A volunteer disinfects the streets of Zahara de la Sierra in Spain during the coronavirus pandemic. (Getty Images)
ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: A man walks his pet with a mask during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
A man in a face mask walks his dog through the cobbled streets of Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. (Getty Images)

A woman who tested positive for coronavirus died six miles north of Zahara, while 16 residents of a nursing home died in nearby Ubrique, 22 miles away.

But Zahara has managed to keep the coronavirus at bay through a series of strict social distancing measures.

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After Spain declared a state of emergency, Zahara’s mayor, Santiago Galvan, closed four of the picturesque town’s five entrances.

A checkpoint on the single road into the town is manned by one police officer, while two staff in protective clothing clean every vehicle that enters with a mix of bleach and water, CNN reported.

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: Volunteers look on as they disinfect the streets of the town during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
Volunteers look on as they disinfect the streets of Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. (Getty Images)
ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: An aerial drone view of the town during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
There hasn't been a single case of coronavirus in the Spanish hilltop town Zahara de la Sierra. (Getty Images)

"There is no car that comes through the checkpoint that's not disinfected," said Galvan, adding that French and German tourists were turned away from the town in the early days of the lockdown.

"We have managed to give tranquility to our neighbours. They know no one 'unknown' can come in."

Inside the town, the streets, plazas and homes are disinfected twice a week by a group of about 10 people, while a local business has paid two women to deliver food and medical supplies to residents.

One of the women, Auxi Rascon, 48, told CNN: "They are very happy because they don't need to go out, they feel protected and feel confident.

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"They took the right measures at the right moment, and now we are seeing the results.”

The measures have been welcomed by those in the town, where a quarter of the population is over 65 and there are more than 30 people in an old people’s home.

ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: Volunteers prepare to disinfect the town during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
Volunteers prepare to disinfect the town of Zahara de la Sierra. (Getty Images)
ZAHARA DE LA SIERRA, SPAIN - APRIL 20: The volunteers pose before going to work to disinfect the town during the coronavirus pandemic on April 20, 2020 in Zahara de la Sierra, Spain. Zahara has mostly cut itself off to the outside world since March 14, a decision broadly supported by its residents, many of whom are elderly. Nearly a quarter of Zahara's inhabitants are older than 65, a demographic group at greater risk of COVID-19. (Photo by Juan Carlos Toro/Getty Images)
Volunteers pose before going to work to disinfect the town of Zahara de la Sierra. (Getty Images)

The young have also been kept entertained – two cars have been fitted with music and lights to drive around the town so children can watch from their balconies.

Geoff and Sharon Browne, a retired British couple in their 60s, moved to Zahara from the Cotswolds seven years ago.

They told the Sunday Telegraph they are relieved to be self-isolating in the town.

“We’re in total lockdown,” said Mrs Browne. “We can go to the little local shops or take the dog out, but that’s it.

“We can’t leave Zahara – there are police roadblocks. I’m exercising at home and talking to friends and family over Skype and WhatsApp. I feel very safe here.”

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