Coronavirus: Nearly 800 bodies collected by police from homes in Ecuador’s virus epicentre

Guayaquil’s mortuary system has collapsed under the strain of Covid-19

Jack Rathborn
Monday 13 April 2020 11:01 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Almost 800 bodies have been collected from homes in Guayaquil by police as coronavirus continues to take its toll on the Ecuadorian city’s emergency services, hospitals and funeral parlours.

The Pacific port city has emerged as the epicentre of the virus in the country with mortuary workers particularly burdened right now.

Videos have surfaced of bodies being abandoned in the streets with the city unable to cope with the backlog.

“The number we have collected with the task force from people’s homes exceeded 700 people,” revealed Jorge Wated, the president of the police and military unit created three weeks ago by the government to tackle help reduce the chaos.

Mr Wated later confirmed on Twitter that the joint task force has retrieved 771 bodies from homes and 631 more from hospitals, though the cause of death was not confirmed.

As of Monday morning, Ecuador, which has a population of 17 million, has had 7,466 cases of Covid-19 with more than 300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But the coastal province of Guayas has accounted for more than 70 per cent of those infected with approximately 4,000 in Guayaquil alone, according to the Ecuadorian government.

But Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno conceded the real figures will be much higher, claiming limited testing has made it almost impossible to accurately determine the total number of those infected.

Wated said in early April: “Medical experts unfortunately... estimate that Covid-19-related deaths in these months will reach between 2,500 and 3,500, just in the province of Guayas.”

Soldiers transport cardboard boxes used as coffins at the Paque de la Paz cemetery in Guayaquil
Soldiers transport cardboard boxes used as coffins at the Paque de la Paz cemetery in Guayaquil (AFP)

With the escalating situation causing the mortuary system to collapse, the government has started to distribute coffins made of cardboard.

While Wated took to Twitter to thank Xavier Salem, the vice president of Barcelona, one of the city’s major football clubs, after hundreds of wooden coffins were donated.

The severity of the situation has seen the country’s vice president Otto Sonnenholzner forced to apologise.

“This week Ecuaor has suffered a strong deterioration of its international image,” Sonnenholzner said. “And we have seen images that should never have happened and therefore, as your public servant, I apologise.”

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