World Corona in Spain: drastic lack of equipment

Corona in Spain: drastic lack of equipment

The number of deaths in Spain is now higher than in China. Dramatic scenes take place in clinics and old people’s homes.

Hospital staff in a suburb of Madrid hug each other. Many hospitals lack gloves and protective masks.

Susana Vera / Reuters

The Spaniards have been waiting for rapid tests for almost three weeks in order to be able to tackle the rampant corona virus more effectively. However, the first tests for Covid-19 were hardly distributed in the middle of the week when there was bad news: The reliability of the 340,000 new test kits from China was low and was only 30 percent, it said on Thursday after evaluating the first results. This is a serious setback, because the day before, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government proudly announced that it had bought masks, tests and ventilators for over 430 million euros.

Sánchez is under great pressure. With 4089 deaths (as of Thursday evening), Spain has overtaken China in the coronavirus statistics, and the number of newly infected people also reached a new record with 8578 in just one day. Spain now has 56,188 confirmed cases.

With the delivery of the first tests, a mass screening of staff in hospitals and old people’s homes should have been carried out. «This has now failed, we have to continue to cope with the small number of conventional tests that are available. Although these are reliable, their evaluation takes far too long, »complains a microbiologist who works at a Madrid clinic and does not want to be named. Her caution is understandable, because a senior doctor in Vigo, Galicia, was released a few days ago after criticizing the lack of protection for her clinic staff on social networks.


Doctors put rubbish bags on as protective clothing

Until the requested material arrives, the doctors and nursing staff in many Spanish hospitals have to fight against the virus almost without protection. In one of Madrid’s flagship clinics, La Princesa Hospital, some desperate doctors started putting rubbish bags on to protect themselves and patients from infection.

But there is also a lack of gloves, masks and safety glasses in the hospitals. Breathing masks, in particular, can hardly be obtained; in some clinics, the camps are even monitored by the police. In the past, 62,000 surgical protective masks were used every week, and the number of coronaviruses had risen to 250,000, according to the Catalan social insurance service Servicio Catalán de Salud. According to government figures, 5.4 million protective masks were distributed across the country by March 24, a drop in the ocean for 47 million people.

The lack of ventilators is particularly dramatic, particularly in the crisis region of Madrid. In a clinic in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcón, for example, a 48-year-old man had to wait an excruciatingly long 25 hours before he received a ventilator. After two hours, he had to share the device with another patient, his sister says.


Consequential demonstrations on March 8th

In view of the scarce resources and increasing number of patients, doctors have to decide more and more who is being treated in the intensive care unit, whereby people with better chances of recovery usually get priority.

The limited resources sometimes have dramatic consequences. For example, Esther Díaz, the manager of an old people’s home in central Madrid, raised the alarm on Wednesday and asked the military for help because she no longer knew how to take care of her charges. In the past few days, 25 of the 160 seniors residing there had succumbed to the coronavirus, and half of the workforce had to quarantine.

The lack of protection in hospitals and old people’s homes and the unchecked spread of the virus have long become a political issue. Opposition leader Pablo Casado accused Prime Minister Sánchez of leaving nurses and doctors to their fate. The conservative politician complained that the government also acted irresponsibly when it did not ban the large-scale demonstrations on International Women’s Day on March 8. In fact, the number of infected people after the parades rose rapidly, especially in Madrid. A week later, the government called the alarm and imposed a nationwide curfew.

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