The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Grim: Spain finds elderly people living among infectious bodies of Coronavirus victims

Associated Press Wednesday, 25 March 2020, 10:51 Last update: about 8 months ago

Spanish army troops disinfecting nursing homes have found, to their horror, some residents living in squalor among the infectious bodies of people suspected of dying from the new coronavirus, authorities said Tuesday.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the elderly residents were “completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds.” She said the discovery over the weekend included several nursing homes but did not name them or say how many bodies were found.

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A judicial probe into the horrific discovery was opened Tuesday as Spain announced a record one-day jump of nearly 6,600 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to more than 39,600. The number of deaths also leaped by record 514 to almost 2,700, second only to Italy and China.

As bodies piled up, Madrid took over a public skating rink as a makeshift morgue after the city facility overflowed. To date, 1,535 people have died in the hard-hit Spanish capital, more than half of the national total. The capital region has over 12,350 infections.

“This is a tough week,” Dr. Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s health emergency center, told a daily news briefing.

Relatives of elderly people and retirement homes’ workers expressed growing concern about the situation at the centers.

“With everything that is happening with the coronavirus, this was a ticking bomb,” said Esther Navarro, whose 97-year-old Alzheimer’s-stricken mother lives at the Usera Seniors’ Center in Madrid, where soldiers found some of the bodies.

“Now we are bracing ourselves for the worst possible outcome,” she told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

A worker at the nursing home said at least two bodies had to remain in the home for a day before funeral workers, who are working around the clock, arrived to take them away.

“We are very saddened, because the residents are almost like our own relatives due to the time we spend with them,” the worker, José Manuel Martín, told Cadena SER radio.

Pedro Núñez said his father-in-law, Zoilo Patiño Lara, died at the nursing home from the virus on Saturday, although he was never diagnosed or taken to a hospital when symptoms appeared. The man, in his 80s and suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, was not removed until Sunday despite Núñez’s repeated calls to funeral home workers.

Domusvi, the private company contracted by the Madrid regional government to run the Usera nursing home, confirmed that two residents died there over the weekend. A company spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, blamed the delay on funeral homes that failed to come quickly to take away the bodies.

While most people suffer only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, for older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause far more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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