COCHABAMBA, Bolivia – The corpse of a man who apparently died with symptoms of COVID-19 lay in a street of the Bolivian city of Cochabamba for almost 24 hours, revealing Sunday the effects of the funeral system collapse and a precarious social situation as protests continued.
From Saturday afternoon, the lifeless body of the middle-aged man remained on a street in this city of just over 600,000 inhabitants, one of the largest in Bolivia.
He was apparently on his way to seek medical attention at a health center in the area when he died and his body was left on the sidewalk, according to local media.
A group of people blocked a nearby avenue in protest until relatives arrived to remove the deceased in a hearse, some 20 hours after he died.
Cases of people dying in the streets or at the doors of health centers with symptoms of coronavirus have been happening for weeks in various cities of the country.
This latest incident occurred after this past Saturday, when residents of Cochabamba placed a wheelbarrow with a coffin in a street.
The aim was to draw attention to the anguish families are experiencing while having to wait for days with a COVID-19 victim’s body at home (usually another family member) without being able to bury or cremate it due to the collapse of the city’s cemetery and crematorium systems.
Some families are afraid to return to their homes with the coffins, warning that neighbors are pressuring them to bury their loved ones and even threatening to stone them out of fear of contagion.
The situation has generated days of protests in the city as the authorities assure that they are digging emergency graves while the expansion of the crematorium is in process.
Cochabamba is one of the cities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Bolivia. The country has registered 1,378 deaths and 38,071 confirmed cases among its nearly 11 million inhabitants, according to official data.