In Peru, the pain of a family decimated by COVID-19

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In Peru, one of the countries most bereaved by the pandemic, COVID-19 seems to have hit the Diaz family: five of its members have died and four are still hospitalized.

“What happened to us was a nightmare. I really don’t wish it on anyone, ”Juan Diaz, a 58-year-old professor told AFP.

COVID-19 has in recent weeks taken away his father, Cecilio Diaz, 80, his mother Edith Leyva (77), his brothers Ernesto (54) and Willy (42), and his sister Maribel (53).

“We were seven brothers and sisters, like the seven days of the week. We lost three, ”laments Juan, who has also fallen ill, along with his wife and daughter.

Before the virus erupted, 17 members of this Peruvian middle-class family lived together in a four-story brick house in Chorillos, a neighborhood in southern Lima.

It was in this house that the last family celebration was celebrated, on November 22, for Cecilio’s 80th birthday. No one imagined then that the nightmare would soon begin.

In addition to the five deaths, four members of the family are still hospitalized at the Villa Panamericana, the sports village built for the Pan American Games in Lima in 2019 and since transformed by the authorities into a hospital for the patients of the pandemic.

Peru, a country of 33 million inhabitants, is one of the most bereaved on the planet. He crossed the threshold of 500,000 contaminations on Thursday and has more than 25,000 deaths. The case fatality rate (78 per 100,000 inhabitants) is one of the highest in the world.

The tragedy of the Diaz family began on May 24 with the death of Ernesto, an employee of the town hall of Chorrillos, says Juan.

“My younger brother died two months ago, then my father died, and a week later my sister, who served as his nurse. And another week later, my mother, then the last of my brothers, ”he explains.


“We have been completely destroyed, now it’s our turn to rebuild the family with those who remain,” adds Juan, himself hospitalized for 15 days at the Villa Panamericana.

Moved, he hugs a frame with a photo of his parents that sits in a room of the house.

The family does not know how she was infected. “The first to die was my father,” says Ernesto Diaz, the third generation, who bears the same name as his deceased father.

Aged 32, he explains that he was infected himself afterwards. Then his grandfather Cecilio, who suffered from diabetes, fell ill before dying during his transfer to the hospital.

On July 18, it is Maribel’s turn to die. She suffered from asthma and had taken care of her father. Grandmother Edith and her youngest son, Willy, die 10 days later.

In the family home, where a mass was celebrated by video conference to honor their memory, portraits of the deceased are displayed everywhere.

In the past few weeks, five family members have been declared cured and have been released from the hospital.

Maribel’s daughter Julissa Navarro Diaz, 32, was released a few days ago after battling the disease for three weeks.

“It’s hard because not only my mother left, but also my grandparents, my uncles. My recovery was a bit slow because of the emotions we had. Saying goodbye to them with a photo or just seeing the hearse, it was very sad, ”she says.

Not surprisingly, this tragedy also had an economic impact. “It left us almost bankrupt,” says Ernesto. “We had to dig into our savings, make loans and ask friends for help to pay for the care.”

“Now we want to get back to normal. Maybe that will never happen, but we have to move on because life goes on. ”

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