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MADRID – Spanish prosecutors have launched an investigation into reports that bodies of elderly residents were found abandoned inside a senior center, while an ice rink has been turned into a makeshift morgue amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The country’s health authorities said on Tuesday that Spain registered a daily record increase in the number of people infected and the number of people who lost their lives because of COVID-19.
Spain announced 6,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to 39, 673. The number of fatalities soared by a record number of 514 in the past 24 hours to 2,696.
In an effort to handle the growing number of deaths, the Palacio de Hielo ice skating complex in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue and will be used to house bodies after funeral homes in the Spanish capital became overwhelmed by the rising death toll.
The Madrid City Council agreed to the plan this week after it was suggested by the owners of the ice rink.
Soldiers from the Military Emergency Unit, who have been deployed to help overstretched health workers, began taking bodies to the Palacio de Hielo where they can remain before being buried or incinerated.
A report drafted by Madrid health authorities stated the Palacio del Hielo has “the necessary cold conditions to preserve the bodies,” which would be placed on “a surface made of polymer materials around two to three centimeters thick” to ensure the body does not come into direct contact with the ice.
Coffins would be duly identified in order to prevent confusion.
The report concluded that ice rink would be used as a temporary measure because of the “exceptional situation.”
Elsewhere, public prosecutors said they would launch an investigation into the claims made by the Spanish defense minister that bodies of elderly people were found abandoned in senior homes.
Margarita Robles, the Spanish defense minister, said troops deployed to clean up the senior homes found “elderly people in a state of complete abandonment, when not directly dead in their beds.”
The Spanish defense ministry confirmed that bodies were found at several residential homes.
Prosecutors said the investigation will ascertain if there was any proof of criminal negligence.
At many of these centers, some staff members had walked out on the job after coronavirus outbreaks were detected, Spanish media reported.
The elderly population has accounted for about 70 percent of fatalities in Spain, health authorities said.
Last week, it emerged that more than 100 elderly people have died at senior homes across the country, although there are no official government figures.
Since the state of emergency was declared on March 14, the government protocol for health workers has been to leave patients who are suspected of dying of coronavirus until a doctor arrives.
However, as the health care system is under such strain, it can sometimes be a while before medical staff arrives at rest homes.