Coronavirus is spreading rapidly across Latin America with fears that relatively weak health infrastructure could be easily overwhelmed.
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been seen by some as having been complacent about the spread of COVID-19, and cases in South America’s largest country are increasing.
At least 4,000 people have died and there are 58,000 registered infections.
But public health experts think that figure could be up to 15 times higher.
Health services are starting to struggle to cope with the number of cases, resulting in familiar stories from those caught up in the outbreak.
“We had no opportunity to transfer my mother-in-law to Delphina Aziz Hospital which is the reference hospital where she should have been treated,” explained Luigi Paolo. “So we kind of stayed there (in the first hospital) trying somehow to get the proper care. A person who needed to be in the intensive care unit was in a basic health ward where they didn’t even have X-rays.”
Luigi’s mother-in-law died.
Mass graves in Ecuador
Ecuador is also finding the scale of the outbreak difficult to cope with.
Outside the port city of Guayaquil, bodies are piling up in refrigerated trucks because hospitals are overwhelmed.
Doctors are in short supply and bulldozers are digging mass graves at cemeteries.
And its thought the peak of the pandemic has yet to come.
In one of the city’s hospitals, the dead are even being piled up in the bathrooms according to one health worker who spoke to journalists by phone.
He didn’t want to give his name.
“The morgue staff didn’t prepare for so many deaths, so that what we have had to do many times is to cover them up and store them in some of the building’s bathrooms.”
The pandemic has also reached extremely vulnerable indigenous communities in a state so huge it can take days of travel by boat to reach outlying towns and villages.
More Cuban medical staff despatched
In Cuba, 217 healthcare workers spent Saturday preparing to travel to South Africa to help in the battle against COVID-19.
The doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, and technical experts were due to arrive on Sunday.
They will operate across the country, with the largest contingents sent to Johannesburg and Capetown.
This brings the total number of Cuban medical personnel dispatched around the world to over 1,200, in 23 different nations.
According to John Hopkins University, Cuba has recorded over 1,300 COVID-19 cases and 51 deaths.
In South Africa over 4,300 cases have been confirmed alongside 86 deaths.