GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador’s Joint Task Force in Guayaquil is working on the burial process for nearly 1,000 bodies that remain in morgues and the strengthening of medical infrastructure with two new hospitals.
The objective of the head of the Force, Jorge Wated, is to bury about 100 bodies a day, which on Tuesday were being held in the small morgues of hospitals and in seven refrigerated containers installed in the city in recent days.
Speaking to EFE, the person in charge of emergency operations of the coastal city confirmed that a system was being implemented so that family members knew at all times where their loved ones were. Since there was a possibility of infection, the process was carried out under extreme security measures.
“Starting today, relatives of the deceased will be able to review at http://coronavirusecuador.com
in which cemetery… their remains rest,” confirmed the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, after some complaints about the whereabouts of the deceased.
Last week in Guayaquil, capital of the Ecuadorian province most affected by COVID-19, more than 1,300 bodies were collected between homes and hospitals, and some were collected by private funeral homes.
On a day marked by the sentencing of ex-president Rafael Correa to eight years in prison rather than the coronavirus situation, Moreno said that 146 Ecuadorians “had a dignified burial” on Monday and that the authorities will continue that work daily “with each of the deceased brothers.”
For the past 10 days, the southwestern province of Guayas has been the scene of an urgent situation due to the infections and accumulation of dead bodies, which now seems to be resolved.
This province alone has recorded 2,706 cases, 67.7 percent of the total cases in the country (3,995, according to the latest report), and deaths amounted to 138, 62.7 percent of the entire country (220). Although there are another 182 deaths for which the causes are unconfirmed, they look to be caused by the virus.
In an interview with EFE, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos predicted that in the next few days the curve of coronavirus cases in Guayaquil would “flatten,” although he warned that “hard days” still lie ahead.
“We are practically reaching the end of this exponential rise in Guayaquil,” said the official, noting that the country’s figures are “high,” although they are still below the margins of other regions hit by the infectious disease, such as countries in Europe and Asia.
On Tuesday, World Health Day, Moreno also had words of encouragement for health personnel, whom he praised for “their dedication, and sacrifice for others” which “demonstrate the nobility of their spirit.”
According to different health spokespersons, “417” to “more than 1,600” hospital staff have suffered or are affected with symptoms of the coronavirus in Ecuador, some confirmed and others not.
Given this situation, the mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, announced that she has arranged with the owners of a local hotel “the availability of rooms for doctors and nurses who do not want to go home to avoid contagion.”
A field hospital, a “Mobile Emergency Unit,” consisting of seven units to be divided between two public hospitals, is also being prepared in the city.
Donated by the Ecuadorian Red Cross, three units will remain in the Los Ceibos hospital in the north, while the remaining four will go to Teodoro Maldonado Carbo in the south.
With 40 beds in total, the mobile hospital has a triage unit, waiting room, emergencies, observations, hospitalization, pharmacy, administration, lighting, water and sanitation, and a warehouse and logistics unit.
The beds will be used for patients with respiratory diseases that require observation, in isolation.
The other hospital is a former maternity hospital in the city center, which was remodeled and adapted for a total of 125 beds, although it will start operation with 70 beds.
The first patients were already referred from other hospitals Tuesday afternoon.
In the face of a seemingly out of control death toll (the authorities have come to speak of between 2,500 and 3,500), the Guayaquil Mayor’s Office has announced that two new cemeteries will be built.
“There will be 12 hectares in total and there will be around 12,000 graves between the two. Both will be free of charge and will become graveyards in honor of those who passed away during this tragedy so that all their loved ones can honor them,” said the mayor.
The first graves will be available from next week in Suburbio cemetery, according to Maria Lorena Apolo, municipal adviser.
“This cemetery already had the structural plans and have been adapted to proceed with the construction system,” said the official.
In the cemetery to be built in La Casuarina, 5,778 graves will be built from scratch.
The Police has also deployed specialized agents in peacekeeping missions in the provinces of Guayas and Los Rios to reinforce security forces.
It is “a large contingent of uniformed personnel” with 52 Blue Helmets, whose mission is “to reinforce operational work” in light of the health emergency.