Despite strict measures to control the coronavirus, this South American nation of 32 million people has become one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 disease. With more than 104,000 cases and 3,000 deaths, Peru was 12th in the world in numbers of confirmed diagnoses Wednesday, more than reported by China and just behind India.
The true scope of the disaster is even worse. With more than half of cases going uncounted, according to some doctors’ estimates, Peruvian officials call the coronavirus pandemic the most devastating to hit the country since 1492, when Europeans began bringing diseases like smallpox and measles to the Americas.
Peruvians are dying at home by the hundreds. In the capital, Lima, the grueling, dangerous work of recovering bodies from homes falls to Faneite, Zerpa and fellow workers from the Piedrangel funeral home, who, clad in full-body orange suits, face masks and goggles to protect themselves, collect as many as 10 bodies a day.
Piedrangel funeral worker Alexander Carballo, of Venezuela, enters a home to remove the body of a person who is suspected to have died from the new coronavirus, in Lima, Peru, Thursday, May 14, 2020. When other funeral homes refused to pick up the body of the first person who died of COVID-19 in Peru, Edgard Gonzales, who owns Piedrangel with his three brothers, saw an opportunity.