Coronavirus: Spanish care home workers 'abandon dead and dying elderly patients'

24 March 2020, 15:18

Medical workers at a temporary morgue in Spain
Medical workers at a temporary morgue in Spain. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

Prosecutors in Spain have launched a judicial investigation into allegations that care home workers fled their posts, leaving elderly patients dead and dying in their beds.

Spanish army troops disinfecting nursing homes found residents living in squalor among the infectious bodies of people who authorities suspect have died from coronavirus.

Defence minister Margarita Robles said the elderly were "completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds".

She said the discovery included several nursing homes and several bodies, but did not give locations for the nursing homes or say how many bodies were found.

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The news came as Spain on Tuesday announced a record daily rise of 6,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to 39,673. The number of deaths also jumped by a record number of 514 to 2,696.

Madrid took over a public skating rink on Tuesday after the city morgue overflowed.

To date, 1,535 people have died in the hard-hit Spanish capital, more than half of the national total. The region has more than 12,350 infections.

"This is the tough week," Fernando Simon, head of Spain's health emergency centre, told a daily briefing.

Mr Simon also said 5,400 health workers have been infected by the coronavirus that is relentlessly marching across the world from China, some 14 % of the country's total cases.

Security forces guarded the outside of the Palacio de Hielo ice skating complex on Madrid's northeastern outskirts as funeral vans entered the building via an underground car park.

Madrid authorities took up the rink's offer after the city's municipal funeral service said it could take no more coronavirus bodies until it restocked with more protective equipment.

The city government said bodies would be held at the rink until they can be taken to be cremated or buried.

Madrid has adapted two city hotels as hospitals to help with the overflow of virus patients and plans to take over five others.

Madrid's hotel association has offered 40 hotels to help medical workers.

Madrid also set up a field hospital in the Ifema trade fair complex that recently housed the COP25 UN climate conference.

Reporting by agencies