Spain coronavirus: Grand hotels converted to hospitals as PM calls for EU aid

With more than 28,000 cases in Spain the country is the second hardest-hit by the coronavirus in Europe

A medical worker in a protective suit walks past police officers patrolling a deserted street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Spain is turning hotels into sickbays to battle the outbreak of Covid-19, while the country’s government has called for an EU “Marshall Plan” to beat the disease.

As the government in Madrid ordered all hotels to close in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic, it announced special measures to turn some of them into hospitals.

One such place is the 359-room Gran Hotel Colon. The four-star property is about a 10-minute walk from Gregorio Maranon hospital, one of the largest in the Spanish capital.

The region that includes Madrid has become one of those hit hardest by the novel coronavirus.

With 1,772 deaths as a result of the pandemic and 28,768 recorded cases, Spain is the second-worst hit country in Europe after Italy.

Authorities fear it may be on a similar trajectory to Italy, which has overtaken China as the nation with the most Covid-19 deaths.

In response to the growing threat posed by the virus, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for an EU “Marshall Plan”, referring to the US strategy to revive European economies after the Second World War.

“This is a crisis that is affecting all of the EU. We need to articulate a grand Marshall Plan of reconstruction,” Mr Sanchez said at a press conference.

“We are making an extraordinary fiscal effort, but it is important that it is not only at the national level.”

Spain’s interior ministry has restricted travel for most foreigners travelling into the country by air and by sea for 30 days.

The ban came days after Spain imposed restrictions on its land borders with France, Portugal and Gibraltar. European Union leaders have agreed to close the bloc’s external borders for a month.

Spanish nationals, foreigners living in Spain, diplomats, cabin crew, and cargo and health care workers will be allowed to travel as normal, the ministry said in its statement.

Spain’s nursing homes in particular have become overwhelmed by the coronavirus, to which elderly people are the most susceptible.

Struggling hospitals have asked care homes to take in seriously ill residents, but they lack ventilators and must compete with hospitals for scarce medical equipment and virus testing kits, industry representatives said.

Many face dwindling supplies of masks, gloves and gowns, said staff, union leaders, care home operators and industry groups.