Now that Brazil becomes the epicenter of the coronavirus in Latin America, with more than 6,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19, even coffins are scarce in Manaus.
By Diane Jeantet and Alan Clendenning
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 1 (AP) – In the bustling Brazilian city of Manaus, in the Amazon, so many people have died in a matter of days in pandemic new coronavirus that the coffins have had to be piled on top of each other in long ditches hurriedly made in a cemetery from the city. Amid despair, some family members reluctantly choose the cremation for loved ones to prevent them from ending up in those mass graves.
Now that Brazil becomes the epicenter of the coronavirus in Latin America, with more than 6,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19, even coffins are scarce in Manaus. The national funeral association has pleaded for an urgent shipment of caskets by air from São Paulo, 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) away, since Manaus does not have paved roads connecting it to the rest of the country.
The city of approximately 2 million people in the middle of the jungle has been overtaken by death in part because it is the main town where people from remote communities in the Amazon go for medical care, according to Lourival Panhozzi. , President of the Brazilian Association of Funeral Service Providers.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported that up to April 30 there have been more than 5,200 confirmed cases and 425 deaths from COVID-19 in the state of Amazonas, although it is believed that the flaws in the process of carrying out the Tests to detect the virus mean that the numbers could be much higher.
Before the spread of the virus, the city of Manaus, the state capital, averaged 20 to 35 deaths daily, according to the mayor. Data from the state Secretary of Health show that currently there are at least 130 deaths a day.
The population in the region has also greatly ignored the containment measures.
There have been indications in much more populated cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that suggest that authorities have been unable to cope with the huge increase in death figures. An area of recent graves that President Jair Bolsonaro deemed excessive in April has been fully occupied since then.
The crudest scenes in Latin America were recorded last month in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, where residents say they had to leave the bodies on the streets after morgues, cemeteries and funeral homes were overwhelmed by the pandemic.
Many in Brazil fear that deaths will rise sharply in the favelas, the huge neighborhoods of low-income families that are popular in Rio and Sao Paulo, but exist both in most of Brazil’s large cities and in smaller towns.
In most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that disappear in two to three weeks. In some people, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions, it can lead to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, and even death.