MADRID, SPAIN –
Spanish soldiers deployed to help fight the new coronavirus outbreak found elderly patients who were abandoned, and sometimes died, in rest homes, while a skating rink inside a mall in Madrid was being turned into a temporary morgue to help facing a wave of cases.
The army has been accused of helping to disinfect retirement homes in Spain, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic. Dozens of COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in facilities across the country.
“We will be strict and inflexible when we deal with the way older people are treated in these residences,” Defense Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview with the private television channel Telecinco.
“The army, during some visits, found some elderly people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their beds,” he added.
An investigation has been launched, the Prosecutor General announced.
The death toll from coronavirus in Spain rose to 2,182 on Monday after 462 people died within 24 hours, according to data from the ministry of health.
Meanwhile, the skating rink on the Palacio de Hielo, or Palazzo del Ghiaccio, Madrid’s commercial center has been transformed into a temporary morgue to deal with a wave of deaths in the capital, a spokesman for the Madrid city hall told AFP .
Earlier, the town hall said that the city’s 14 public cemeteries would stop accepting more bodies because the staff did not have adequate protective equipment.
The improvised morgue would begin to be used “in the next few hours,” said the regional government of Madrid.
“This is a temporary and exceptional measure that aims to mitigate the pain of the families of the victims and the situation that Madrid’s hospitals are facing.”
A nearby convention center has been converted into a field hospital for coronavirus patients which will have a total of 5,500 beds.
Elders are particularly vulnerable in the global pandemic and officials around the world are demanding ever more extreme measures to protect them.
Retirement homes are “a top priority for the government,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said in a press conference.
“We will exercise the most intense monitoring of these centers.”
According to coronavirus protocols, healthcare professionals were asked to leave the bodies in place in the event of suspected COVID-19 deaths until a doctor arrives. But given the increase in deaths, the delay can be long.