'No coffins or oxygen': Bolivia struggling amid coronavirus surge

Rapid spread of COVID-19 in the Latin American nation is putting a strain on hospitals and cemeteries.

    'No coffins or oxygen': Bolivia struggling amid coronavirus surge
    Mourners standing next to the coffin of their relative during a burial in El Alto outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia [David Mercado/Reuters]

    The rapid spread of the new coronavirus in Bolivia is overwhelming the country's hospitals and cemeteries, as the number of confirmed cases has surpassed 65,000. 

    Bolivia's health ministry reported 1,117 new infections on Thursday and 79 additional virus-related deaths, taking the Latin American nation's toll to 2,400 - although the real numbers are believed to be much higher.

    Earlier this week, more than 400 bodies were recovered from streets, vehicles and homes of some of the country's biggest cities by the police, with 85 percent of the victims believed to have died from COVID-19.

    The situation has been straining resources in the administrative capital, La Paz, the country's biggest city, Santa Cruz, as well as Cochabamba, where almost 200 bodies of suspected coronavirus patients were collected in five days. 

    "In the last few weeks, things have collapsed," Yamil Zavaleta, a funeral services provider, told Al Jazeera.

    "We don't have coffins and the only help we're getting is with cremations. Families don't want to deal with the fact that this has exploded. We're doing what we can."

    With hospitals running out of oxygen supplies, relatives of patients were told to make their own arrangements.

    In La Paz, a patient's relative told Al Jazeera her 56-year-old father-in-law died in a car awaiting treatment.

    "We were at another hospital and he turned blue and started throwing up," Silvia said.

    "We asked a nurse to check him out and pay attention to us. Then we came here with him in the car. Nobody is allowing us inside. He just died he died in the car. He was a healthy man, he was sporty and now he is dead."

    Polls deferred again

    With the peak of the pandemic expected later this month, the electoral tribunal on Thursday postponed general elections, scheduled for September, until October 18. 

    The election was originally supposed to be held in May but had been rescheduled to September 6 after the country went into lockdown following the virus outbreak.

    The latest postponement comes just two weeks after interim President Jeanine Anez, who has been leading the country following Evo Morales's controversial departure last year, tested positive for COVID-19. Four cabinet members have also contracted the virus.

    Frontline Mexico: The Fight Against COVID-19

    Special series

    Frontline Mexico: The Fight Against COVID-19

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies