MADRID: Spanish Army soldiers deployed to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak have found elderly patients abandoned, and sometimes dead from the COVID-19, at retirement homes, Spainish defence minister said.
The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 2,182 on Monday after 462 people died within 24 hours, according to health ministry figures.
“We are going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way old people are treated in these residences,” Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview with private television channel Telecinco.
“The army, during certain visits, found some old people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their beds,” she added. An investigation has been launched, the general prosecutor announced.
The army has been charged with helping to disinfect retirement homes in Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. Dozens of deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded at facilities across the country.
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 told a press conference.
“We will exercise the most intensive monitoring of these centres.”
Under coronavirus protocol, 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.