Madrid, December 18
Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered an investigation into the deaths of elderly nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic as the government warned the nation was facing a possible third wave of infections.
Magistrates were asked to find out if deaths at nursing homes “were associated with political, administrative or management decisions and whether those decisions are criminally reproachable”.
More than 20,000 people died of COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 in nursing homes during the first wave in March-May, according to preliminary official data reported by El Pais newspaper and broadcaster RTVE.
While it rejected about 50 cases that specifically targeted the government for its management of the pandemic, the court also asked lower courts to look into the possible misuse of public funds to buy flawed or fraudulent medical equipment.
Spain has been one of the countries in Europe hardest-hit by the pandemic. A total of 48,777 people have died from the coronavirus, health ministry data show, with the toll climbing by 181 on Thursday.
Having dropped off steeply since late October, daily infections began rising last week, leading Health Minister Salvador Illa to warn that Spain could be facing the start of a third wave of contagion if adequate measures are not taken.
He praised regions such as Catalonia and Valencia, which have tightened Christmas restrictions, but ruled out any new national measures for now. Spain on Dec. 2 allowed curfews to start later over the holidays and raised the cap for gatherings to 10 people per household.
Illa said Spain would receive the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 26 and start inoculating priority groups the following day, in line with other EU states.
In a blow to the Spain’s popular Canary Islands, Germany added the archipelago to its list of high-risk areas, just two months after classifying it as a safe destination.
“We regret this decision, although we understand it, but we are sure that with the measures already implemented in the Canary Islands…we will soon manage to bring down the incidence,” regional tourism chief Yaiza Castilla said.