Health authorities in Ecuador announced on Sunday that they had removed nearly 800 bodies of people who died in their homes in the city of Guayaquil, the epicenter of the country’s Chinese coronavirus outbreak.
“The number of bodies collected by our home task force has exceeded 700 people,” said Jorge Wated, the leader of a special police and military team by the government in response to the chaos across Guayaquil, the most badly affected city across Latin America.
Wated added that the joint task force, set up by the government three weeks ago, had recorded 771 deaths in homes and 631 in hospitals, where the morgues are at full capacity. Around 600 of those bodies have already been buried, many of which were placed in a recently built mass grave recently dug to ease pressure on morgues.
Last week, Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner apologized to families who were asked to keep the bodies of their lost ones, which led to scores of corpses being left on the streets.
“We have seen images that should never have happened and as your public servant, I apologize,” he said at the time.
Since the first case of the virus in Ecuador was confirmed on February 29 by a migrant returning from Spain, the country has confirmed 7,529 cases and 355 deaths. At least 597 people have made a full recovery. In the joint task force’s report, it estimates that a further 384 people may have died from the virus without being tested, nor did their bodies receive an autopsy to identify a possible contagion.
The most badly affected area of Ecuador is the province of Guayas, which represents 72 percent of total nationwide infections. Around 4,000 cases are concentrated in the provincial capital of Guayaquil, the country’s most important commercial and financial center.
On Friday, President Lenin Moreno announced an emergency economic plan aimed at stabilizing the South American nation aimed at supporting citizens and companies most badly affected by the pandemic. As well as the coronavirus, the country was also recently struck a blow when two large oil pipelines exploded, forcing the suspension of crude exports vital to its economy.
“The pandemic hit us at a critical moment when we were trying to get ahead after a very tough economic crisis. It hit us without a cent in the state’s accounts,” Moreno said in a televised speech. “Those who earn less will pay less and those who earn more will pay more. With their contribution, we will be able to protect almost two million poor families in Ecuador.”