Ambulance workers push a wheelchair with a patient at a nursing home in Leganes Madrid. Reuters
When staff take a break to applaud at a sprawling field hospital set up at Madrid's conference centre to treat people with coronavirus, it means a patient has been discharged.
Located just a short drive from Madrid's airport, the Ifema conference centre normally hosts car shows, art fairs and concerts.
But in just two weeks soldiers converted it into Spain's largest field hospital to treat victims of the pandemic, which has claimed nearly 11,000 lives in the country, nearly 5,000 of them in the Madrid region.
The facility opened on March 21 and it currently houses just over 1,000 patients, who are spread out in neat rows of white beds separated two metres (six feet) apart by removable partitions.
A nurse wearing a face mask comes to an abrupt stop at a yellow line on the floor marking the start of the area of the hospital deemed "dirty" or contaminated because it's where the infected patients are treated.
Staff must wear full protective gear to enter this area.
In one unit with 12 beds separated by removable partitions, one patient is asleep, another plays with his mobile phone while a third peels an orange.
Three patients wearing face masks wait while sitting on chairs. They have been declared cured. Applause rings out when they get up to leave.
"It's a good day for us because we are discharging more and more patients," the general coordinator of the field hospital, Fernando Prados, told AFP.
Over 2,000 patients have passed through the facility since it opened, and about 900 were discharged after they were cured, he added. Eight patients have died.
Officials originally planned to set up 5,500 beds at the conference centre but they have stopped "for the moment" at 1,500 because hospitals in Madrid are slowly seeing a drop in the number of people seeking care, he added.
The contraction, triggered by one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns, was worse than the 16.6% expected by analysts. It came after a 5.2% drop in the first quarter, dragging Spain into its steepest recession ever, at a record pace.
The jobless rate was up from 13.8 per cent in the previous quarter, its lowest level since the third quarter of 2008 but still the highest rate in the eurozone after Greece.
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