A ghastly incident in Spain shows what could happen

A home where 17 residents have died from coronavirus / FERNANDO VILLAR / EL PAÍS

Not all of the human drama in the Covid-19 pandemic is cheeriness under pressure, heroic doctors and nurses, and the generosity of neighbours. Some very bad stuff can – and probably will – happen. 

Nothing illustrates this more vividly than what happened in Spain this week. On Monday, military units seconded to help in the crisis entered various residential centres for seniors in Madrid. What they found was appalling. Some of the residents were dead in their beds. Others were wandering around “in a state of complete abandonment” with poor hygiene. It sounds like a canto in Dante’s Inferno.

And worst of all, the care workers were nowhere to be seen. They appear to have fled, terrified of contracting the coronavirus.

For these residents, it must have been the worst death imaginable – alone, helpless, choking, without any accompaniment in their last moments.

Spaniards were horrified and enraged at the news. “Toda la puta vida trabajando para acabar así. Qué rabia!!” was a typical comment on Twitter – “your whole ******* life working to end up like this. Appalling!!”

Prosecutors have launched an investigation. Reports in the media were vague about the details, but the Minister confirmed the story.

“We are going to be absolutely implacable and forceful about the treatment that seniors are getting in those residences,” said Defence Minister Margarita Robles in a television interview. After asserting that most centres for the elderly in Spain are doing a good job, she declared that “the weight of the law will fall on those who fail to meet their obligations.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge  

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