By Vincent West
ONDARROA, Spain (Reuters) – Spanish fishermen are taking coronavirus tests before returning to sea to avoid spreading infection among colleagues at close quarters in boats as the industry creaks back into action.
In the Basque village of Ondarroa, on Spain’s northern Atlantic coast, nurses covered from head to foot in protective gear from ambulance service DYA take nasal swabs at the fishermen’s association, turned into a makeshift testing centre.
Before setting sail, the men must secure a negative result.
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus among Ondarroa’s fishing crews, who work and sleep together out at sea, dock worker Andoni Agirregomezkorta told Reuters.
“What could happen is that we end up contaminating them … There’s no coronavirus at sea, the boats come in clean,” he said.
Hard-hit Spain is only just beginning to emerge from a strict lockdown, now in its 10th week, which has brought the economy to its knees.
In 2019, the fishing industry employed around 31,000 people and generated some 4.34 billion euros ($4.76 billion) in exports, according to industry body Cepesca.
Organizers cut attendance at Ondarroa’s 6 a.m. auctions by half since the onset of the coronavirus, with just 25 buyers gathering to bid on the daily catch, according to Agirregomezkorta.
But fellow port worker Angel Lasarte is optimistic that as bars and restaurants begin to reopen, demand will pick up.
“Little by little things should start going back to normal,” he said.
(Reporting by Vincent West; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)