Friday 17 September 2021

Ecuador struggles to bury the dead as bodies pile up

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The accumulated dead in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, are so many that they are building”camp for the dead” as it struggles with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Latin America.

This family has their dead on April 1, 2020, in front of the Guasmo Sur General Hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, without being able to bury them. Many deceased are from Covid-19.  Photo Vicente Gaibor del Pino / Reuters

Guayaquil and the province where the city is located, Guayas, are being hit hard by the outbreak, as nearly 70% of Covid-19 infections in all of Ecuador are concentrated there.

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The Ecuadoran Ministry of Public Health on Saturday raised the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus to 3,465, with 172 deaths.

During the pandemic, the government reduced the paperwork to be able to bury a dead person and now only requires that there be a death certificate in which a doctor specifies the cause of death. In addition, the Police are required to endorse the removal and that a funeral home disposes of the body. In the health contingency, if the family has not contracted a funeral service, the State will bury the body.

“There are three cremation companies in Guayaquil and they all collapsed because the cremations are one by one. You can’t do a cremation like this when you have like 100 dead. You have to act like in times of war and more because the dead also spread the virus,” Francisco Andino, former Minister of Public Health of Ecuador and epidemiologist present at several of the technical panels of health professionals seeking solutions, told France 24.

A coffin with the body of a person who is supposed to have died from COVID-19 disease lays wrapped in plastic and covered with cardboard, outside a block of family apartments in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Thursday, April 2, 2020.

In order to stop the spread of the disease, starting April 6, new mobility restrictions will be put into place that will allow vehicles to run only one day per week depending on their license plate number. With certain exceptions, no vehicles will be allowed to run on the weekend.

The streets of Ecuador’s western city of Guayaquil are deserted, with few residents in sight — and a few dead, as bodies are being left in the streets of this overwhelmed place.

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Amid the announcement of a new cemetery in Guayaquil, Ecuador, lines of cars continued to go to the cemetery with their own coffins to find a space for the dead, many infected by Covid-19. Photo Vicente Gaibor del Pino / Reuters

Hospitals and morgues are at a breaking point in the largest city.

It’s unclear how many of the deceased are dying because of Covid-19. Many families say their loved ones had symptoms of the virus, while others only know the ill were unable to be treated at Guayaquil’s overwhelmed hospitals.

National figures show that Ecuador’s authorities have collected more than 300 bodies from private homes, in the city of almost 3 million, between March 23-30.

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Guayaquil’s mayor Cynthia Viteri has desperately begged for help from the national government in a video posted to her Twitter account last week. “What is happening in the country’s public health system? They are not taking away the dead from houses, they’re leaving them on the sidewalks, they’re falling in front of hospitals. No one wants to pick them up,” she said, adding later, “we need to know the causes of why people are dying in their homes.”

A video grab from AFP TV shows relatives waiting outside of a hospital for information on family members infected with Covid-19 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on April 1, 2020.

President Lenin Moreno during an address to the nation Thursday called for transparency at all levels of government regarding the numbers caused by the crisis. “It’s important to tell the truth,” Moreno said, adding that in “both the number of cases and deaths, the records fall short.”

Wated, the task force chief, has said that experts expect between 2,500 and 3,500 deaths in the coming months in Guayas province alone.
Several containers have arrived in Guayaquil to serve as temporary morgues to accommodate the influx of bodies, and authorities say they plan to create space for “dignified burials.”
But for now, some of the living in Guayaquil remain trapped in a nightmare, with no way to mourn their loved ones, not even through a proper burial.

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Q24N
Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

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