Peru’s hospitals are straining to deal with a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, with bodies being kept in hallways, masks being repeatedly reused, and protests breaking out amongst medical workers concerned over their safety.
Peru has the second-highest number of cases in South America after Brazil, despite a tough lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus.
Confirmed numbers have risen sharply in recent days, passing 17,000 on Tuesday, double the figure from just one week ago. Almost 500 people have died.
“We as a hospital have a capacity for only six bodies,” Deisy Aguirre, leader of the nurses union at the Maria Auxiliadora hospital in Lima, told Reuters. “Daily we have been seeing 13 to 16 bodies crowded on the first floor.”
The health ministry says it expects patient numbers to peak within days or in the following week. On Monday, dozens of health workers protested in front of the Maria Auxiliadora hospital, holding banners decrying a lack of protective equipment such as masks. A doctor at the protest provided a video showing at least four dead bodies covered in white or black covers in a hospital corridor.
Susana Oshiro, the hospital’s director, told Reuters that at some point the number of dead had exceeded the capacity of the hospital as there was only space for six bodies in the mortuary.