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"We are very concerned, of course"

Panic in Spanish municipality of Villaconejos due to erroneous COVID-19 data

Erroneous information published by the media with data on the number of coronavirus infections in the Spanish municipality of Villaconejos, which said that the town had 1,365 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest rates in Spain, has raised great concerns among workers in the melon sector of the town, given the possible reaction of consumers to this information.

Villaconejos sells melons all year round, but is now in the middle of the local melon campaign. From October to February, the fruit is grown in Brazil, then until May the production comes from Senegal, and in May the campaign kicks off in Andalusia and Murcia. Now, in September, it is the turn of the central area of the Iberian Peninsula.

A large part of the melons consumed in Spain go through its warehouses. The town, as a whole, handled 40 million kilos last year. There are about 100 families that make their living from the melon sector, to which we must add a multitude of indirect jobs. About 70% of the local GDP depends on this fruit.

"We are very concerned, of course," says Antonio Agudo, manager of El Melonero, one of the main producers in Villaconejos, which last year handled 11 million kilos. "Almost everyone here depends on melons to make a living; there is no other industry," says Agudo. "A piece of news on TV and in the newspapers can destroy us. I don't know if they realize that they are putting the livelihood of many families at risk. I remember that something similar happened recently in Chinchón. They said it was infested with coronavirus and then it wasn't true, but in the next three weekends, the restaurants worked at just 10% of their full capacity. You have to be very careful with the data published about the coronavirus, because it could destroy a town."

One of the least affected
The official data of the Region of Madrid, however, suggests the opposite. Since March, only 21 positives have been confirmed in Villaconejos, with 7 of them in the last 14 days; an increase that results in a rate of 207 positives per 100,000 inhabitants, which is average for Spain. Since March, there have been four deaths. For a town of 3,363 inhabitants with a high rate of mobility, these are very positive figures, one of the best in the region.



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