China’s crematoriums struggle as Covid cases soar

China’s crematoriums struggle as Covid cases soar

BEIJING, CHINA — Crematoriums across China told AFP Tuesday they were straining to deal with an influx of bodies, as the country battles a wave of Covid cases that authorities have admitted is impossible to track.

Hospitals are struggling and pharmacy shelves have been stripped bare in the wake of the Chinese government’s sudden decision last month to lift nearly three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing.

In Chongqing — a city of 30 million where authorities this week urged people with “mild” Covid symptoms to go to work — one crematorium told AFP they had run out of space to keep bodies.

“The number of bodies picked up in recent days is many times more than previously,” a staffer who did not give their name said.

“We are very busy, there is no more cold storage space for bodies,” they added.

“We are not sure (if it’s related to Covid), you need to ask the leaders in charge.”

In the southern megapolis of Guangzhou, one crematorium in Zengcheng district told AFP they were cremating over 30 bodies a day.

“We have bodies assigned to us from other districts. There’s no other option,” an employee said.

Another crematorium in the city said they were “extremely busy” as well.

“It’s three or four times busier than in previous years, we are cremating over 40 bodies per day when before it was only a dozen or so,” a staffer said.

“The whole of Guangzhou is like this. We’ve constantly been receiving calls,” they added, stressing that it was “hard to say” whether the surge in bodies was linked to Covid.

In the central city of Baoding, an employee of a crematorium told AFP: “Of course we’re busy, which workplace isn’t busy now?”

In the capital Beijing, local authorities on Tuesday reported just five deaths from Covid-19  — up from two the previous day.

Outside the city’s Dongjiao Crematorium, AFP reporters saw more than a dozen vehicles waiting to enter, most of them hearses or funerary coaches displaying sombre-coloured ribbons and bouquets of flowers.

Delays in entering the crematorium were obvious, with a driver towards the front of the queue telling AFP he had already waited several hours.

It was not immediately clear whether an increase in Covid deaths was causing the backlog, and crematorium staff declined to answer questions.

The end to mandatory testing has made the toll of China’s Covid surge difficult to track, with authorities last week admitting it is now “impossible” to tally the full scale of the sick.


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