Spain has registered a record number of coronavirus deaths in a single-day period with the army now being handed emergency powers to transfer bodies because undertakers are unable to cope.
The number of deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours is 832, it emerged this morning, bringing the nation’s death toll to 5,690 since the outbreak began.
Today’s tally beats the previous Spanish record for a single day of 769 coronavirus which was recorded on Friday.
It puts Spain now firmly in second place as the worst-hit nation ahead of China with 3,295 in total.
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Spanish Ministry of Health figures show 72,248 people have been infected, 40,630 have needed to be hospitalised, 4,575 people have been admitted to intensive care and 12,285 people have been cured of the disease.
Only Italy’s single-day death tally is worse than Spain’s – with 969 dying there from coronavirus in the 24 hours between Thursday and Friday.
On Monday a second makeshift morgue is due to start functioning in Madrid after a retail centre ice rink where families paid six pounds a time to skate became its first stop-gap body drop because of the saturation funeral parlours were facing.
The new temporary morgue, known locally as the Donut because of the way it looks from the sky, was built to be Madrid’s Institute of Forensic Medicine but never opened.
The figures comes after the army was given special powers to transfer bodies because of the saturation undertakers are facing.
The sharp increase in the number of deaths caused by coronavirus has laid to bodies being left longer than normal.
The government gave soldiers temporary authorisation to fill the void and help alleviate the problem by publishing the new order in an official state bulletin today.
The Ministry of Health-issued order states: ‘The Armed Forces that form part of the operation against Covid-19 are authorised to drive and transfer corpses at the request of the appropriate authorities.’
Health Minister Salvador Illa said: ‘Special attention needs to be paid during this health crisis to the issue of the transfer of corpses, to properly manage the removal and conservation of bodies through accumulation and the absence of available funeral services.’
The task of removing coronavirus victims’ bodies is expected to fall on Spain’s military emergency unit called UME which has been at the forefront of the mass disinfecting of residential elderly care homes and other public areas.
The order is valid until mid-April but are expected to be extended if Spain’s state of emergency goes from four weeks to six.
Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles told a Spanish TV programme earlier this week soldiers tasked with disinfecting the homes as part of the fight against coronavirus were discovering abandoned bodies.
She said: ‘The army, during some visits, has seen elderly people absolutely abandoned, if not dead in their beds.
Spanish government forced to return ‘faulty’ coronavirus testing kits to ChinaHer comments have been criticised by senior nursing home workers who say the problem has been that undertakers were saturated by the number of deaths and could not cope.
Spain extended a nationwide lockdown on Thursday by a further 15 days to April 12 and said it was fighting a ‘real war’ over medical supplies to contain the death toll.
Health authorities are hoping it will soon become clear whether the lockdown is having the desired effect.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose wife is infected with the virus, previously said this is the country’s most difficult moment since its 1936-39 civil war.
‘Only the oldest, who knew the hardships of the civil war and its aftermath, can remember collective situations that were harsher than the current one.
‘The other generations in Spain have never, ever had to face as a collective something so hard.’
Princess Maria Teresa of Spain has died aged 86 after testing positive for coronavirus.
The princess, of the Bourbon-Parma Royal Family in Spain, passed away yesterday her younger brother, Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, announced.