Hospital services ‘collapsing’ in Spain as coronavirus death toll surges

Martin Bentham, Gerard Couzens
Healthcare workers dealing with the new coronavirus crisis in Madrid: AFP via Getty Images

Hospital staff in Madrid have warned that services are “collapsing” as wards are overwhelmed with cases.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Spain has now risen to 56,188 from the 47,610 recorded on Wednesday and their death toll has jumped to 4,089 from 3,434.

​Only Italy, which has suffered 7,503 deaths, has fared worse, and the number losing their lives in Spain is continuing to rise quickly.

Medical staff in the capital, Madrid, which has converted its major ice rink into a makeshift mortuary, are being cheered by members of the public as they go to work.

But they have warned that they need more help as they grapple with the largest number of cases in the country.

A health worker handling a swab to test a police officer in Madrid (Madrid City Hall/AFP via Getty I)

“We are collapsing. We need more workers,” said Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid’s 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz.

“If you had told me three months ago that I would be working in these conditions in Spain, I wouldn’t have believed you. If they did [regular testing], they might end up without any workers.”

The latest figures came as the nationwide state of emergency and accompanying lockdown, begun on March 15, was extended until April 11.

People are banned from leaving home except for buying essential supplies and medicines, or for work.

The situation is calm in some parts of the country. In a rural area near Malaga a British expatriate said today that supermarkets were well-stocked and shoppers were “courteous and considerate”, although many wore masks.

Elsewhere there has been tension and occasional violence, including an ­incident in which a 29-year-old man was stabbed by his 31-year-old flatmate as he tried to leave home with a cough.

Jose Angel Gonzalez, deputy head of the Spanish National Police, encouraged people to ring the country’s equivalent of 999 if they witnessed or heard about other wrongdoing.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested during the state of emergency and 20,000 fines have been issued.

Meanwhile, in France a special “medicalised TGV” fast train has evacuated 20 patients with coronavirus from eastern France to less affected regions.

The death toll in France has risen to 1,331, including 231 in the latest 24-hour period. Health chief Jérôme Salomon said the number of people needing life support had risen 12 per cent.

He added that “the epidemic is rapidly worsening”.

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