Ecuador VP apologises after virus corpses left on streets

Ecuador city runs out of coffins amid COVID-19 crisis

Agence France-Presse . Quito, Ecuador | Published: 22:14, Apr 06,2020


People look at a body said to be laying for three days outside a clinic in Guayaquil, Ecuador on April 3. — AFP photo

Ecuador’s vice-president Otto Sonnenholzner has apologized after scores of bodies were left on the streets of Guayaquil as the coronavirus ravages the horror-struck port city.

Residents had published videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets in the Latin American city worst hit by the pandemic.

Authorities collected at least 150 corpses from streets and homes earlier this week, but did not confirm how many of the dead were victims of the outbreak.

‘We have seen images that should never have happened and as your public servant, I apologise,’ said Sonnenholzer, who is heading the country’s virus response, in a statement broadcast by local media on Saturday.

Ecuador had recorded nearly 3,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, including 172 deaths.

The government has imposed a state of emergency and introduced a nightly curfew in an effort to contain the spread of the disease.

Meanwhile, soaring numbers of COVID-19 deaths in Ecuador’s second city Guayaquil have led to a shortage of coffins, forcing locals to resort to using cardboard boxes, city authorities said Sunday.

Authorities in the Pacific port city said they had received a donation of 1,000 pressed cardboard caskets from local producers, and delivered them for use in two local cemeteries.

‘It’s so they can meet demand,’ a city hall spokesman said. ‘There are either no coffins in the city or they are extremely expensive.’

Businessman Santiago Olivares, who owns a chain of funeral homes, said his company was unable to keep up with demand.

‘I sold the 40 that I had at the downtown branch, and 40 others from my headquarters. I had to order 10 more at the weekend and they’ve run out,’ Olivares told AFP.

The cheapest coffins currently cost around $400.

Olivares said a 15-hour curfew in the city was contributing to the shortage of basic raw materials for coffin makers like wood and metal.

Last week, residents posted videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets in the Latin American city worst hit by the pandemic.

The government called in troops to pick up 150 corpses from streets and homes earlier this week after mortuary workers in the city were unable to keep up with a backlog of removals.

The cardboard coffins ‘will be a great help in providing a dignified burial for people who died during this health emergency,’ the Guayaquil mayor’s office wrote on Twitter.

Ecuador reported 3,646 cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, including 180 deaths, the majority of them occurring in Guayaquil and its surrounding province of Guayas.

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