LIMA – The epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic in Peru has moved to the southern city of Arequipa, suffering from crowded and oxygen-deficient hospitals and protests against authorities for an alleged lack of foresight before the spread of the infectious disease progressed.
The second largest city in Peru, which has more than a million residents, has remained among the least impacted by the epidemic in recent months, like the rest of southern Peru, but in recent weeks it has seen an increase of cases that has put the healthcare system on the verge of collapse.
The latest report from the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that Arequipa already has 10,676 cases and 585 deaths, a situation that has led its Bar Association to file a criminal complaint against Governor Elmer Caceres, whom they accuse of simple homicide, exposure of people to danger and omission of functional acts.
In the complaint, the dean of the Arequipa Bar Association, Jose Arce, considered that Caceres has committed “mass crimes” to the detriment of Arequipa citizens due to the incorrect management of the resources that the government provided to combat the epidemic, as well as his lack of leadership in the health emergency.
Arce added in his lawsuit, broadcast by the RPP station, that a bench of the Superior Court of Justice of Arequipa confirmed a fine of 6,450 soles (about $1,850) imposed on the governor for not having properly implemented the protocol of prevention and care for patients of COVID-19 in his region.
This complaint must now be evaluated by the Public Ministry, which will determine whether to open a preliminary investigation to determine possible criminal liability in the Arequipa health crisis.
The situation in Arequipa was also commented on by Minister of Health Pilar Mazzetti, who pointed out that “there is a weakness that covers all aspects” in that region but said that “if the appropriate organizational measures are taken,” work can be done jointly with the government.
“If (the measures) are not taken, we cannot evade responsibility with the citizens,” she said, referring to the protests, which on Sunday even reached President Martin Vizcarra, who was unable to enter an Arequipa hospital due to doctors and relatives of patients claiming the lack of equipment and proper environments to tend to the most serious cases.
The situation even led the Congress Board to suspend a plenary session scheduled for this Thursday in Arequipa, in which 14 legislators, a team of advisers and a doctor were going to participate.
After these events, Vizcarra asked on Tuesday the president of social security, Fiorella Molinelli, to travel to Arequipa to personally direct the delivery of support materials and medical equipment in the region.
The Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday that 4,406 new cases have been detected in the last hours, bringing the total number of infections to 362,087 nationwide.
The daily cases exceeded the recovered cases again, which on the last day were 3,665 and increased to 248,746 the total number of people who had been discharged from a medical center or had completed their home quarantine.
In addition, the number of deaths rose to 13,579, with another 195 in the last hours, while hospitalized patients fell to 12,747, with 25 fewer in the last day, and a total of 1,342 people in intensive care units.