A cardboard hospital bed that can be used for coronavirus patients turns into a coffin when they die.
The bed-chest combination was created by businessman Rodolfo Gomez after seeing disturbing images of the bodies of dozens of Covid-19 victims on the streets of a South American city.
In the overwhelmed city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, families have been forced to wrap their loved ones’ bodies in carpet or plastic and dump them on the street because it takes too long for the dead to recover from homes.
Mr. Gomez was motivated to design something he hopes would prevent a similar scenario in his native Colombia and other countries: hospital beds that can be converted into coffins.
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The Colombian health system has so far not been overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients – the country is due to quarantine at the end of two months – but the pandemic has caused overcrowding in hospitals and funeral homes elsewhere.
Mr. Gomez, whose company ABC Displays usually produces marketing materials, was concerned that his country’s health system would be overloaded at some point and designed the cardboard bed boxes.
The 44-year-old said: “We saw what happened in Ecuador, when people brought dead relatives into the street … whatever happens is that the funeral services collapse with the pandemic.
“So we started developing a bed that could be converted into a coffin.”
The beds have metal railings, wheels with brakes and can be tilted up and down.
They can carry up to 150 kg (330 lbs).
Gomez said the biodegradable coffins cost between £ 75 and £ 110.
He hopes that their low costs will allow local and provincial governments to equip rural or underfunded hospitals cheaply.
Converting to coffins when a patient dies will also reduce potential contamination, he said.
Speaking at his factory in Bogota, which can produce up to 3,000 beds per month, he said, “Once the bodies are prepared, it is converted into a coffin and covered.
“The staff in the area are not exposed to biological risks.”
The first bed boxes are donated to the hospital in Leticia, a Colombian city in the Amazon region with a large number of cases and a limited hospital capacity.
Gomez said he has already spoken to potential buyers in Peru, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.
Colombia reported more than 19,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus during the outbreak, according to global data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 680 people died.
Infections have skyrocketed in neighboring Brazil, where the government has been heavily criticized for tackling the crisis.
Brazil has the highest contamination rate in South America, becoming the No. 2 hotspot in case numbers on Friday behind the US alone, which reported 1.6 million cases.
It has over 330,000 confirmed infections and over 21,000 deaths.
Globally, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has passed five million, with more than 338,000 deaths.