By Uriel Sanchez
ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - Intensive care units in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco are close to capacity as the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm hospitals and leaves local authorities scrambling to dig more graves.
Best known for its beaches, sunshine, and cliff divers, Acapulco is fast becoming a hotspot for Mexico's escalating COVID-19 outbreak.
Public hospital beds equipped to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients are nearly full, according to local authorities. They said only seven were available on Wednesday in the city of nearly one million people.
About 30 more beds are being equipped after Mexico's president singled out the city during a news conference on Wednesday.
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"There's one place, the only place, Acapulco, where we need to pay very close attention and amplify the hospital capacity right away," said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The sunkissed beach destination, already hobbled by gangland violence that has driven away international tourists in recent years, has 820 confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll of 69, according to official data, up sharply in the last week. The true totals are likely much higher and one model indicates the outbreak could potentially peak in June.
In an Acapulco cemetery, there are rows of open graves.
The local government has ordered the digging of 300 new individual graves for poor victims of COVID-19, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
The government has told people to practise social distancing and avoid large gatherings, but police have been called to break up parties, and locals continue to shop.
"What's going on with my town? Why are the markets jam-packed and people don't understand there aren't enough hospitals?" said Mayor Adela Roman a few days ago, choking back tears.
Many COVID-19 patients have had to wait up to five hours to be admitted to hospital, according to a Red Cross paramedic who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Some are dying in our ambulances" before entering the hospital, the paramedic said.
"Acapulco's health system has collapsed."
(Reporting by Uriel Sanchez; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)