In the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, bodies left on the street decay and aren’t tended to because the country is overwhelmed by the Coronavirus outbreak. The streets of the city are deserted.
The pandemic stretches the authorities and public services too thin and populated cities are at a point of collapse. Hospitals don’t have beds for patients, while cemeteries, morgues, and funeral homes are struggling.
Consequently, citizens leave wrapped bodies on the streets, fearing that the bodies could infect other people and their families with COVID-19.
The dead either had symptoms of Coronavirus, the families say, or they were ill and couldn’t receive treatment in Guayaquil’s overwhelmed hospitals.
“We have been waiting for five days,” Fernando Espana said in a video obtained by Reuters on March 30. He was talking about how the authorities hadn’t picked up a body. “We are tired of calling 911 and the only thing they tell us is to wait, they are working to solve this.”
“It’s the odor from the body that one can no longer handle,” Espana’s neighbor, Glenda Larrea Vera says in the same video, using a mask. The smell seems unbearable. “And we also have neighbors that are elderly. I have my mother who is 80 who is also having respiratory problems.”
A video obtained by CNN shows how a motorcyclist abandons a body in the street, then, a few hours later, a group dressed in hazmat suits picks up the body and drives off in a vehicle. In another video obtained by CNN, a discussion not detailed by the police can be seen. A group removes a body from a vehicle, then, after talking with the police, they put it back in the car. The body appears wrapped in black tarp.
National data show that Ecuador’s authorities collected more than 300 bodies from private homes in Guayaquil, a city of approx. 3 million residents. The 300 body count occurred during March 23-30, according to CIA Factbook.
Jorge Wated leads a joint military task force to deal with the Coronavirus in Ecuador. He stated that his task force had gone from “taking away 30 deceased per day to 150” in the span of three days. Wated said that this was “independent of the hard work reactivated by the private funeral homes and graveyards in the country.”
As of Friday, Ecuador’s National Service of Risk and Emergency Management Department reports 3,368 confirmed coronavirus cases and 145 deaths nationwide.
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102 of them are in Guayas province, where Guayaquil is situated. However, residents fear that the number of cases is, in reality, bigger than what it is reported by the authorities.
“It’s important to tell the truth,” President Moreno said. He called for transparency at all governmental levels regarding the numbers caused by the pandemic.
Several containers were sent to Guayaquil to temporarily contain the bodies, and authorities say they plan to create space for “dignified burials.” The people of Guayaquil continue living in a city of Ecuador where bodies are left on the street.