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In Ecuador, Covid-19 is leaving a literal trail of bodies

. Apr 01, 2020
In Ecuador, Covid-19 is leaving a literal trail of bodies

One cannot say that authorities in Ecuador are downplaying the Covid-19 outbreak. On national television, viewers are fed constant warnings in block orange letters at the bottom of the screen reading “stay at home!” All government communications have sent similar messages — alongside deliberately gruesome pieces of news to shock citizens into social distancing. And in the country’s largest city Guayaquil, the mayor filled an airport runway with cars, motorcycles, and trucks in order to stop a plane from Spain landing, fearing contamination.

Still, however, Ecuador has witnessed war-like scenes as Covid-19 spreads around the country.

</p> <p>The country&#8217;s Health Ministry has so far confirmed 79 coronavirus-related deaths, almost half of all deaths reported in Brazil — a country with a population almost 13 times larger.</p> <p>Guayaquil is quickly becoming the epicenter of the most visible effects of the coronavirus tragedy in Latin America. To the point that municipal officials have decided to open several mass graves to deal with a continuously growing body count.</p> <p>President Lenín Moreno announced the creation of a task force to give dignified burials to all victims, forcing municipal authorities to step back and defend the use of individual graves for all deceased citizens. According to <a href="https://twitter.com/CynthiaViteri6/status/1245093239385972743">Mayor Cynthia Viteria</a>, the Health Ministry is coordinating the deployment of large containers to temporarily refrigerate bodies while funeral services deal with an unparalleled demand.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Hoy entregamos 1 de los 3 contenedores, al Hospital de Monte Sinaí, que coordinamos con ell Ministerio de Salud para refrigerar temporalmente los cuerpos de los fallecidos por <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a>. <a href="https://t.co/GAbgdHmYMW">pic.twitter.com/GAbgdHmYMW</a></p>&mdash; Cynthia Viteri (@CynthiaViteri6) <a href="https://twitter.com/CynthiaViteri6/status/1245093239385972743?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>The Guayas province, where Guayaquil is situated, is home to 70 percent of all confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ecuador. The lack of information and the fragility of the health system have resulted into a horror movie-like scenario. According to the local administration, corpses are being abandoned on the streets. A <a href="https://twitter.com/denisseteleSUR/status/1245122557659004928">video shared</a> by TeleSUR correspondent Denisse Herrera showed the situation (viewer&#8217;s discretion advised).</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Este video me ha enviado Lia Burbano, miembro de las Organizaciones Sociales del Guayas. Asegura que en los sectores más vulnerables de Guayaquil no llega la ayuda de autoridades. Insiste que las personas por el miedo no saben que hacer <a href="https://twitter.com/teleSURtv?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@teleSURtv</a> <a href="https://t.co/2FvS1ovx4M">pic.twitter.com/2FvS1ovx4M</a></p>&mdash; Denisse Herrera (@denisseteleSUR) <a href="https://twitter.com/denisseteleSUR/status/1245122557659004928?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said at least 100 corpses have been collected in Guayaquil homes during one body-collection operation — families have no choice but to retain their relatives’ bodies inside. “Some of these deaths are related to the coronavirus and others were not,” Ms. Romo said.</p> <h2>Where did it go wrong for Ecuador?</h2> <p>Although the country is experiencing a severe crisis right now, things haven&#8217;t derailed due to <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2020/03/24/amlo-bolsonaro-feel-the-limits-of-personalized-politics/">negligence from authorities</a>. The Andean country was the first in South America to shut down its land borders, and it has barred all foreigners from entering since March 13.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike most countries, the Ecuadorian government even restricted the entry of Ecuadorian nationals who are abroad, as part of President Moreno&#8217;s “Stay Home” plan. Four days after borders were completely closed, the country&#8217;s capital Quito declared a state of emergency, imposing a curfew and suspending work.&nbsp;</p> <p>So, what went wrong?</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="810" height="450" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4.png" alt="In Ecuador, Covid-19 is leaving a literal trail of bodies" class="wp-image-34721" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4.png 810w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4-300x167.png 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4-768x427.png 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/4-610x339.png 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><figcaption>Guayaquil.</figcaption></figure> <p>Ecuadorian professor Andrés Vladimir Jácome says the problem goes beyond official measures. Besides the scarcity of hospital supply, citizens still lack information on transmission and prevention — especially in peripheral regions along the coast. “We could point the finger at the government, as it had enough time to buy supplies and medicines for hospitals but it did not. In addition, people on the coast do not believe in the pandemic,” he told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</p> <p>Inequality is also a crucial factor. According to official government data, urban poverty grew from 13.2 to 15.3 percent in 2018. The most affected place is the city of Guayaquil, where almost 10 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. In June 2019, poverty reached 25.5 percent of Ecuadorians.</p> <p>“Temperatures hit almost 35 degrees Celsius during the day. Imagine that most people are poor, and have to be locked inside for 15 hours a day in wooden shacks, near smelly rivers, with families of six people or more. They just can’t stand not going out and taking a walk. The fact that most people don’t have internet or air conditioning machines also works against the &#8216;Stay Home&#8217; strategy,” Mr. Jácome added.</p> <p>Since the government has required the Armed Forces to help to enforce the quarantine, people have been denouncing cases of violence. The life of the middle-class with mobile phones and air conditioning are directly impacted by the measures established by the official authorities. The rest of the people, however, remain stuck in a perilous valley of misinformation and poor health conditions.&nbsp;

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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