In tears, a few close friends attend the burial of their relatives who have died of the new coronavirus in a cemetery near Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, a small country in central America overwhelmed by the dead.
The burials are under military guard. Few people defy the soldiers who have escorted the funeral procession from the exit of the hospital and open the coffins sealed for a last farewell to the deceased.
Only a handful of close relatives are permitted to enter the cemetery, the others must wait outside.
Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, himself hospitalized last week after having been tested positive, has acknowledged that the health system is overwhelmed by the influx of patients.
“We knew it was going to overflow, that people were going to die including their homes,” said to AFP the president of the Association of funeral directors in Honduras, Edwin Lanza. “This is going to get worse because we have not arrived at the top of the curve” of the epidemic, he says again.
The official figures record 10 000 patients for the coronavirus in Honduras, a country of 9 million inhabitants, of which more than 300 died. However, “it is necessary to multiply these figures by five, there are 50 000 people”, assures the secretary of the Association of the undertaker, Jesus Moran.
In the north of the country, “they bury at night between ten and twelve corpses (piled up) in the trailer”, he stated during a phone interview from San Pedro Sula (100 km north of Tegucigalpa, the country’s second city and epicentre of the epidemic.
Very often, in the most miserable neighborhoods, people complain of pain in the chest, died at home without being tested and are simply recorded as dead suspects Covid-19, according to Edwin Lanza.
The instructions are to wrap the body in three plastic bags decontaminated, and packing of the coffin itself to prevent it from spreading. But more often, they are not met, if the alarm does it.
“We are stunned (…) these last few days our sales have increased by 80%,” said Mr. Lanza, owner of a small factory of caskets in El Pedregalito, in the west of Tegucigalpa.
The “bodies” pile up”, says Mauricio Corrales, the president of the union of the staff of the Hospital Escuela of Tegucigalpa, where we had to climb up to the haste of the tents in the courtyard to accommodate patients always most numerous.
“The morgue does not work, the corpses are in a state of decomposition, there will be a wide contamination,” warns who is responsible, who has published on the social networks a video showing 16 cadavers, in black bags, spread out on stretchers in the corridors.
“About 3, 000 employees, 56 have tested positive… We do not have a security equipment suitable”, he laments.