Top Spanish general resigns over allegations of vaccination queue-jumping

FILE PHOTO: Health worker receives an injection with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in Madrid
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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's top general resigned on Saturday after allegations he had received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of priority groups, one of a number of public officials who have sparked public anger because of reports they have jumped the vaccination queue.

Defence Minister Margarita Robles had asked General Miguel Angel Villaroya, chief of defence staff, for explanations after media reports on Friday that he had received the vaccination.

In a statement on his resignation, the defence ministry indicated but did not explicitly state that Villaroya had had the vaccination. The general "never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges which damaged the image of the Armed Forces and put in doubt the honour of the general," it said.

It added that Villaroya "took decisions which he thought to be correct" but which "damaged the public image of the Armed Forces".

It was not immediately possible to contact Villaroya for comment.

At start of the pandemic, Villaroya represented the military at media daily briefings where he detailed how troops were cleaning care homes and caring for elderly residents.

Spaniards have been indignant over the queue-jumping.

"General Villarroya and other colleagues, my companion is 67, has Alzheimer's and is blind. We are waiting for the vaccine. A clerk and a former nurse and we are in the first group. Are you more important?" tweeted a user with the handle @Marcosendra1.

Nationwide infection rates have soared since late December, with 42,885 new cases added to the tally on Friday bringing the total of cases to 2,499,560. Four hundred deaths were reported, for a total death toll of 55,441.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Frances Kerry)