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As the coronavirus spreads in Ecuador, bodies are being left on streets

Pablo Jaramillo Viteri and Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

QUITO, Ecuador -- The corpses have been overwhelming Guayaquil, a port city of 2.8 million at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in Ecuador.

Over the last few days, several were wrapped in plastic and left on the streets. Others have lain unclaimed in hospitals and clinics that have been overwhelmed by infections. The city morgue is full.

The majority of the dead are believed to be victims of the virus, but nobody can say for sure how many. There has been little testing.

The country has confirmed 2,700 infections and 93 deaths -- 60 of them in Guayaquil and its immediate surroundings. But municipal officials there said they have recovered at least 400 bodies in recent days.

Mayor Cynthia Viteri, who announced that she has tested positive for the virus, said the national government should be responsible for collecting the corpses.

"They're leaving them in the villages, they fall in front of hospitals," she said in a Twitter video message to residents last week. "No one wants to recover them."

 

The majority of those whose bodies have been found on the street were probably indigent, said Hector Galarza, a publicist in Guayaquil. "But it is generating panic."

On Monday, a former mayor announced the formation of a "crisis committee" of business, government and academic leaders whose goals include "resolving the transport and burial of the huge quantity of cadavers accumulating in the clinics and hospitals attending the pandemic."

Juan Carlos Freire, an attorney in the city, said public frustration is growing.

"People are asking that some authority takes charge of the dead, but the lack of response means they are being left in central streets of Guayaquil," he said.

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