DOZENS of coronavirus corpses have been dumped in the streets of Ecuador as families are forced to use cardboard boxes for coffins.
The port city of Guayaquil has been ravaged by the deadly virus, as over 150 corpses were left on the side of roads in the hope that authorities would take them away.
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Ecuador has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis, which has officially claimed 172 lives, though there are fears this may be much higher.
As the deaths increase, the number of bodies needing removal has created a backlog for authorities, and now takes up to three days.
The number of confirmed infections stands at over 3,500 and is rising rapidly.
Shocking pictures posted by the city's residents show bodies left on side streets and outside hospitals, forcing an apology from the country's vice president Otto Sonnenholzner.
It comes as Ecuadorian authorities are set to receive 2,000 cardboard coffins for COVID-19 victims after relatives complained about burial costs.
Mr Sonnenholzer, leading the country's virus response, told local media on Saturday: "We have seen images that should never have happened and as your public servant, I apologise."
But some in the country have hit out at the cardboard coffins, labelling them 'humiliating'.
On Twitter, user ‘Marlonolayaoch1’ wrote: “The Guayaquil council, which has so much money, humiliates people by offering cardboard coffins.”
And another, ‘YoSoyLaAssange’, said: “That is so that poor people do not forget their place in society. Cardboard coffins!”
But authorities in Ecuador claim they will be a "great help" for burying the dead.
The Guayaquil mayor's office wrote on Twitter: 'The cardboard coffins 'will be a great help in providing a dignified burial for people who died during this health emergency."
CITY IN CRISIS
Troops currently patrol the streets of Guayaquil, the country's largest city and a gateway to the to enforce a strict lockdown.
Hundreds of people have also been arrested for breaching the quarantine – which includes a night time curfew between 4pm and 8am.
Guayaquil resident Hector Galarza previously speculated that many of the dead piling up in the streets are likely to be the city’s poor.
He said the bodies are generating a “panic” as they are ravaged by Covid-19.
The city's Mayor Cynthia Viteri has called on the national government to step up and help collect the piling-up corpses in Guayaquil, which she has said "no one wants to recover".
While she herself is sick with the virus, she has promised to "protect Guayaquilenos in a moment as difficult as this one."
She said: “I will be where I am and how I am.
"Don’t leave your houses, protect the elderly and the weakest, and take care of each other.”
Ecuador reported its first known coronavirus case on February 29, a 70-year-old woman who had arrived from Italy – she died two weeks later.
President Lenin Moreno attempted to place restrictions on travel, and the country’s borders were sealed on March 16.
Guayaquil however was reportedly slow to follow the advice, dependent on its bustling open markets and trade.
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