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Spanish troops disinfecting nursing homes find bodies among residents

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 19: Military Emergency Unit (UME) soldiers arrive at the departure terminal to disinfect the Barcelona Airport on March 19, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish government will mobilize 20 billion euros of crisis measures to help companies and workers. As part of the measures against the virus expansion the Government has declared a 15-day state of emergency. The Government of Spain has strengthened up its quarantine rules, shutting all commercial activities except for pharmacies, food shops, gas stations, tobacco stores and news kiosks in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as well as transport. Spaniards must stay home except to go to work but working from home is recommended, going to buy basic things as food or pharmacy products is allowed but it must be done individually. The number of people confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Spain has increased to at least 17,147, with the latest death toll reaching 767 according to the country’s Health Ministry. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

MADRID — Spanish soldiers disinfecting nursing homes have found, to their horror, some residents living in squalor among the infectious bodies of people that authorities suspect have died from the new coronavirus. Prosecutors have launched a judicial probe.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the elderly were “completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds.” She said the discovery included several nursing homes and several bodies but did not give exact locations for the nursing homes or exactly how many bodies were found.

The news came as Spain on Tuesday announced a record daily rise of 6,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to 39,673. The number of deaths also jumped by a record number of 514 to 2,696.

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

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

Simon also said 5,400 health workers have been infected by the coronavirus that is relentlessly marching across the world from China, some 14 % of the country’s total cases.

Security forces guarded the outside of the Palacio de Hielo ice skating complex on Madrid’s northeastern outskirts as funeral vans entered the building via an underground car park. Madrid authorities took up the rink’s offer after the city’s municipal funeral service said it could take no more coronavirus bodies until it restocked with more protective equipment.

The city government said bodies would be held at the rink until they can be taken to be cremated or buried.

Madrid has adapted two city hotels as hospitals to help with the overflow of virus patients and plans to take over five others. Madrid’s hotel association has offered 40 hotels to help medical workers. Madrid also set up a field hospital in the Ifema trade fair complex that recently housed the COP25 U.N. climate conference.

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