Ecuador's police remove nearly 800 bodies from virus epicentre

Ecuador has said that in recent weeks, the police have removed nearly 800 bodies from homes in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, after COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, overwhelmed emergency services, hospitals and funeral parlours.

Mortgage workers in the Pacific port city were unable to cope with a backlog, with residents posting social media videos showing abandoned bodies in the streets.

“The number we collected from people’s homes with the task force exceeded 700,” said Jorge Wated, who leads a team of police and military personnel set up by the government to help with the chaos caused by COVID-19.

Later on Sunday on Twitter, he said that the Joint Task Force, which had been in operation for the last three weeks, had recovered 771 bodies from their homes and another 631 from hospitals, the morgues of which are full.

Wated did not specify the cause of death of the victims, 600 of whom have now been buried by the authorities.

Ecuador has recorded 7,500 coronavirus cases since the first diagnosis was confirmed on 29 February.

The coastal province of Guayas accounts for more than 70% of those infected in the country, with 4,000 cases in the capital of Guayaquil, according to the national government.

The army and the police began removing bodies from their homes three weeks after the Guayaquil mortuary system collapsed, causing delays in forensic services and funeral homes under a 15-hour daily curfew.

Guayaquil residents have posted videos on social media of bodies abandoned in the streets, along with messages asking for help in burying their family members.

The Government of Ecuador has taken on the task of burying bodies, given the inability of relatives to do so for various reasons, including financial ones.

At the beginning of April, Wated said, "Medical experts, unfortunately … estimate that COVID-19-related deaths in these months will be between 2,500 and 3,500, only in the province of Guayas.