Spanish army finds elderly patients dead and abandoned in retirement homes

Madrid turns an ice rink into a morgue as coronavirus deaths rise

epa08317526 View of Palacio de Hielo ice skating center and shopping mall in Madrid, Spain, 24 March 2020. The facilities will be used as a morgue for coronavirus fatalities amid coronavirus outbreak as morticians' are operating on the edge of their capacities. Spain faces the tenth day of national lockdown, in an effort to slow down the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.  EPA/CHEMA MOYA
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Spanish soldiers have found elderly patients abandoned and dead at retirement homes.

It comes as an ice rink inside a Madrid shopping centre has been turned into a temporary morgue to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.

Spain’s army has been deployed to help disinfect retirement homes as case rapidly rise.

The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 2,696 on Tuesday after 514 people died within 24 hours. It now has 39,673 confirmed cases.

“We are going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way old people are treated in these residences,” Defence Minister Margarita Robles said.

“The army, during certain visits, found some old people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their beds.”

The country’s general prosecutor has launched an investigation.

Madrid’s city hall has taken the decision to turn the Palacio de Hielo ice rink into a temporary morgue to deal with a rise in deaths in the capital.

Earlier, the city hall said the city’s 14 public cemeteries would stop accepting more bodies because staff there did not have adequate protective gear.

The improvised morgue would start to be used “in the coming hours”, the regional government of Madrid said.

“This is a temporary and exceptional measure which aims to mitigate the pain of the family members of the victims and the situation hospitals in Madrid are facing.”

In Madrid, struggling with Spain’s worst outbreak, the municipal funeral home announced it would stop collecting bodies from Tuesday because of a shortage of equipment.

The use of the space will be coordinated by Madrid’s regional government and military emergency units, which have been sent across Spain in the past week to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

A nearby congress centre has been converted into a field hospital for coronavirus patients that will have 5,500 beds.

The elderly are especially vulnerable in the global pandemic and officials around the world are increasingly calling for extreme measures to safeguard them.

Retirement homes are “an absolute priority for the government”, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

“We will exercise the most intensive monitoring of these centres.”


Under coronavirus protocols, health workers have been instructed to leave bodies in place in suspected Covid-19 deaths until the arrival of a doctor. But given the upsurge in deaths, the delay can be lengthy.

Spain is the second-worst affected country in Europe after Italy, which now has the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world.

On Monday, Italian authorities said 602 people with Covid-19 had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 6,077.