Closed at home, people started to die – and no one went to get them. It is in this way that the problem with which several families of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, when faced with the death of a relative at home they had to wait days for hundreds of corpses to be collected.
What is up? Deep down, it's a perfect storm.
Guayaquil has become one of the biggest outbreaks of the new coronavirus in all of Latin America, immediately overwhelming hospitals and filling mortuaries to their limit. As for the funeral homes, there are those who have no hands to measure before a peak of work and also those who refuse to work, for fear of being infected. Given this situation, there were families who when they saw one of their dying they were forced to decide between keeping their dead at home or throwing them out on the street.
“What is going on with the public health system in this country? They don't take the dead out of the houses, they leave them on the sidewalks, they fall in front of the hospitals and nobody wants to go and get them ”, complained, at the beginning of this crisis, at the weekend, Mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, herself in isolation for having tested positive for the new coronavirus.
According to the newspaper El Universo, based in the city that is the country's economic capital, on Wednesday the police estimated that there were 450 bodies on the waiting list to be removed from or near homes.
On Twitter, journalist Blanca Moncada began to compile a list, which, although extensive, is far from complete, with addresses where bodies had yet to be collected. At that thread on Twitter on March 31, cases of people who had been dead for three days abounded.
In order to help you, you will publish to all the corpses that are not covered.
– Blanca Moncada Pesantes (@Blankimonki) March 31, 2020
In protest and also in despair, some family members began to burn furniture in the middle of the street, in addition to clothes and blankets used by the dead, in order to attract the attention of the authorities. Contrary to what has been written and spread on social networks, there is no record that corpses were burned in the streets.
It is not just funeral homes and hospitals that are unable to respond in Guayaquil. The records are also failing to keep up with the high number of deaths – having suggested to the population that they deal with the certificates of babies meanwhile born for another time. Laboratories can do little, given the scarcity of materials to test for the new coronavirus.
Even so, the official figures for this Thursday already indicated that there were 2,758 positive cases in Guayaquil alone – which represents more than 87% of all cases in the country. In that city alone, there are more cases diagnosed than in at least seven countries in the region, points out El Universo: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. This discrepancy, however, may also be the result of the lack of testing in some of those countries.
In any case, the city of Guayaquil is a serious focus of the new coronavirus – and that is admitted by the President of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, adding that those figures do not reflect the seriousness of the situation. “Today we are also experiencing this problem in our country, especially in the much loved Guayaquil. According to scientific researchers, we have tens of thousands of contagions in complete safety and hundreds of lives have already been claimed by this virus, although in some cases they are just suspicions ”, he said.
So he admitted:
We know that both for the numbers of contagions and for the deaths the official numbers are below. The reality always exceeds the number of tests and the speed with which attention is paid to the situation ”.
The President of Ecuador underlined that the death figures that the government will work on to ensure that the official count becomes “more transparent (…), however painful it may be”.
On April 1, the government of Ecuador reported that expects the new coronavirus crisis to kill between 2,500 and 3,500 people across the country.