Peruvians Says Goodbye To COVID-19 Victims With Billboards

Images of the 125 doctors who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru, are displayed outside Peru's Medical College (CMP) in Lima on August 13, 2020. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images)
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LIMA, Peru, Weds. Aug 26, 2020 (Reuters) – Peruvians unable to personally bid farewell to loved ones who have died during the novel coronavirus pandemic have seized on the offer of billboard space to say their final adieus writ large.

Around the capital Lima and in eight other cities, posters, billboards and advertising trucks pay homage to victims of the virus, who in most cases were transferred directly from the hospitals where they died to burial sites without funerals because of the risks posed by the highly contagious disease.

“Jano Madrid, you made this world a better place,” reads one; another says: “We will never forget your lovely smile, Petty,” and a third: “Fortunato Mestanza, the mark you left can never been rubbed out.”

“Jano went straight from the hospital to the crematorium in a coffin and the next time I saw him he was in an urn,” his widow Tania Sotelo told Reuters TV. “This seemed a wonderful idea to me, it’s an outlet to be able to say the things you were never able to.”

The messages were made possible through a public campaign by 15 outdoor advertising firms who made space available on 300 paper and digital posters, billboards and trucks.

Bereaved families are invited to send a short tribute and picture of their loved one, and these are projected for free onto the placards.

Juan Carlos Gomez de la Torre, the creator of the campaign, told Reuters TV that he hoped to alleviate some of the guilt relatives felt at being able to give their loved ones a traditional sendoff.

“They feel they have not paid them a proper tribute so just being able to say in the 10 or so words that there is space for on the billboard what that person meant to them is a good thing,” he said.

Peru, an Andean nation of 33 million people, is among the Latin nations worst hit by the virus, with 600,438 cases and 27,813 deaths so far.

(Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Bernadette Baum)