Spain's Supreme Court orders probe into nursing home COVID-19 deaths

FILE PHOTO: Josefa Velasco, 94, who overcame the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and lives in a care home, waves goodbye to her relatives after they talk through a glass front at the Centre Parc nursing home after Catalonia’s regional authorities announced restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Barcelona, Spain August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered an investigation into the deaths of elderly people in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of protective gear for health workers.

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”.

Spain has been one of the countries in Europe hardest-hit by the pandemic, both in terms of disease and the economic impact. A total of 48,777 people have died from the coronavirus, with the toll climbing by 181 over the last 24 hours.

More than 20,000 people died of COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 in nursing homes in Spain during the first coronavirus wave, according to preliminary official data reported by El Pais newspaper and broadcaster RTVE.

The Supreme Court also asked the lower courts to look into the possible misuse of public funds to purchase flawed or fraudulent equipment to fight the pandemic.

However, it rejected about 50 cases that specifically targeted the government for its management of the pandemic, arguing that the complaints were not detailed enough to charge any high-ranking officials.

“We cannot rely on collective outrage at the tragedy in which we are still immersed, and legitimate disagreement with government decisions that some consider ill-advised,” the Supreme Court said, adding it would only directly take on such cases when high officials are involved.

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