Burying the dead in COVID-19 times has become a drama in a Bolivian region, where in the face of high demand for niches and cremations relatives must wait for days with the bodies of the deceased in their homes, fearing reprisals from their neighbors.
Giving the dead a dignified burial has become a pilgrimage, with relatives approaching the door of the General Cemetery of Cochabamba, one of Bolivia’s main cities, waiting for an answer to carry the body of their deceased.
“They don’t want to take care of us here to bury my family member, now there’s nowhere to leave the dead, unfortunately now he’s in my house, I don’t know what I’m going to do, it’s already three days,” one of the affected people told Efe on Wednesday, who preferred not to give his name.
His brother-in-law died last Sunday in a hospital in that city, of just over 600,000 inhabitants, the death certificate notes that the causes of his death are “under study,” which has caused him more obstacles to bury him and that he has to live with the body in his own home.
Add to this the fear that the neighbours have that the deceased will “pollute” them and that they will react violently with the family.
“Last night the neighbors came and they wanted to take out the drawer and throw it out of my house, because they told me it’s a contamination, they came with sticks, I had to beg for them to bury it now, but there’s no solution,” he said.
Faced with desperation, the man asked the authorities to provide an immediate solution to the families who are going through this situation.
“My fear is getting to the house, I don’t know what we’re going to do, ” he lamented.
Family and funeral homes ask for solutions
A similar case lives another woman, who prefers not to be identified, who also seeks to bury a relative and in the absence of a response threatens to leave the dead man at the door of a councillor’s house or in the square in front of the Mayor’s Office.
“Getting the body back to the neighborhood is going to be for the people themselves to come against us, we’re even afraid they’ll stone us, because people don’t want to, now what I’m going to do,” the woman told Efe.
Rayi Mitre, one of the funeral homes representatives in that city, told Efe that this same situation is repeated in at least 40 homes waiting for a space in the cemetery.
“We have died since June 25 that we have nowhere to bury them, the cemeteries that have land do not accept us, what we are going to do,” he questioned.
Mitre argued that it is necessary for the authorities to provide an immediate solution and to enable more burial spaces or to make way for a cemetery exclusively for COVID-19 positives, to avoid this dramatic situation.
On Tuesday the funeral homes went out to protest with their hearses in the city center, to ask that the Mayor’s Day give more burial spaces and that another crematorium oven be enabled.
This week, general cemetery workers declared themselves in an emergency and called for quick coronavirus tests to death in the event of the deaths of one of their comrades.
Added to this is the collapse of hospitals that lack the necessary supplies, personnel and equipment, a situation that is repeated in several regions of the country.
Currently there are 1,123 deaths and 33,219 cases of coronavirus in the country, with Cochabamba among the worst affected regions.