Disturbing truth behind fleet of red vans in country devastated by coronavirus

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Spain has become the second country to record more coronavirus deaths than China, with its death toll soaring past the nation where COVID-19 was first detected.

On Wednesday, Spain recorded a further 738 deaths, its highest daily total, and brought the nation’s death toll to 3434. It has since risen further to 3,647, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The country now sits only behind Italy in regards to the most coronavirus deaths, with Spain’s European counterpart recording 7,503 deaths.

China’s death toll sits at 3285 and has rapidly slowed following stringent lockdown measures not only in the original epicentre of Hubei but across mainland China.

The escalating pandemic has brought life to a virtual standstill across multiple European countries as healthcare systems, including Spain’s, struggle to cope with the influx of coronavirus patients.

Nursing homes across the country have been overwhelmed by cases and in similar scenes to those that have occurred in Italy in the past week authorities are struggling to deal with the sheer amount of bodies.

Ice rink turned into makeshift morgue

In a sign of the country’s desperation, authorities were forced to transform an ice rink in Madrid into a makeshift morgue.

Police stood guard on Wednesday outside the capital's Palacio de Hielo rink, normally a popular venue for children's birthday parties, as hearses and ambulances arrived at the building.

A fleet of red vans have been pictured delivering bodies to the ice rink over the past few days.

Red vans drop off bodies to the makeshift morgue on Tuesday. Source: Getty
Workers in full protective gear wait to receive bodies at the ice rink. Source: Getty

Images from Spain’s hospitals almost mirror those from Italy, with intensive care units at capacity and resources stretched to its limit.

Spain has been left with no choice but to undergo a widespread lockdown as cases soared to just shy of 50,000 on Wednesday (local time).

Madrid has been the worst hit city, logging roughly a third of all Spanish cases.

In one shocking development, Spanish soldiers discovered the bodies of elderly people abandoned inside nursing homes.

Streets across the nation’s major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are unrecognisably empty.

Fire engines and tractors have been deployed to spray disinfectant along streets in a bid to safeguard public spaces.

Authorities began to carry out mass testing for public workers in a requisitioned fairground in Madrid, one of the worst-hit regions.

Lack of equipment and ventilators

Spanish medical staff, who themselves account for thousands of infected cases, have taken out lawsuits against the government, complaining of the lack of basic protective equipment like masks, scrubs and gloves.

The Spanish army has asked NATO for ventilators, protective gear and testing kits, Armed Forces Chief Miguel Villarroya said on Wednesday.

A female patient is transferred in Madrid. Source: AP

The government had ordered 432 million euros ($800 million) worth of masks, gloves, testing kits and ventilators to be delivered over the next eight weeks, with the first large batch expected this week, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

However despite their 11th day of lockdown where most services have closed while gatherings are banned, there is little sign the exponential growth of cases slowing down.

Yet there is hope their measures, despite not being viewed as draconian as China’s, will prove to be as successful as the Asian powerhouse’s measures.

China’s meticulous approach to the outbreak has allowed the province of Hubei to begin easing restrictions and pencil in April 8 as a date Wuhan, where the majority of deaths in China occurred, will be slowly lifted out of lockdown.

"We have achieved a near total reduction in social contact," health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference, adding that Spain was nearing the peak of the epidemic.

Orgies and dog walking: Police crackdown on restriction breaches

And while the majority of Spaniards are cooperating, the Civil Guard police force warned on Wednesday as it sanctioned a man who had repeatedly tried to rent his dogs out via Facebook so that people could walk them.

A Barcelona street completely empty under the lockdown. Source: AP

Among the exemptions for Spain’s 46 million people during the restrictions is dog walking.

"The man was advertising activities which implied people leaving their homes to rent dogs, or walk rented dogs," said a police spokeswoman in the northeastern Galicia region.

"That would be infringing the decree that only permits going outdoors for work, groceries, walking your dog or pharmacy visits."

The man faces a possible fine of between 500 and 5,000 euros.

In one flagrant case, eight men were arrested in central Barcelona on Friday for "crime against public health" after they were found engaged in a drug-fuelled orgy.

The vast majority of Spaniards have complied with lockdown and social distancing recommendations, spawning dozens of confinement-related hashtags, social media trends or balcony singing as people seek to connect with and amuse one another.

With Reuters

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