Crematoriums in China revealed that they are facing difficulties in dealing with an increase in the number of corpses, amid a boom the country is facing in terms of Covid infections, which the authorities have recognized as impossible to track.
Hospitals are under great pressure due to the surge in infections, and pharmacies are facing a shortage of medicines after the sudden decision of the Chinese authorities issued last month to lift most of the closure and quarantine measures and stop intensive examinations, which have been in place for nearly three years.
The United States warns that the outbreak has become a source of concern in the rest of the world, given the possibility of new viral shifts and the size of the Chinese economy.
And workers in crematoriums from northeastern China to its southwest confirmed that these facilities are facing difficulties in dealing with a surge in deaths, according to what was reported by “Agence France Presse”.
In Chongqing, a city of 30 million people, authorities this week urged residents with “mild” symptoms to go to work, and crematoriums told AFP they could no longer accommodate additional bodies.
“The number of bodies that have been received in recent days is many times greater than in the past,” said a crematorium worker, who asked not to be identified.
“We are very busy, there are no more refrigerated spaces to store the bodies,” he added.
“We are not sure (whether it is related to Covid), you should ask the officials,” he added.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, a crematorium in Xingcheng County told AFP that the number of cremated bodies exceeds 30 per day.
“We are receiving bodies from other provinces. There is no other choice,” said an employee.
Another crematorium in the city said it was also “very busy”.
One of the employees said, “The busyness rate is three or four times higher than in previous years. We burn more than 40 bodies a day, while it was limited to about 12 bodies.”
“The whole of Guangzhou, we are constantly receiving calls,” he said, stressing that it was “difficult to know” whether the surge in the body count was related to Covid.
In the northeastern city of Shenyang, a worker at a center that provides burial services said that bodies remain unburied for up to five days because the crematoriums are “completely full”.
In response to a question by AFP about whether the increase in demand was caused by Covid, he said, “What do you think? I have never witnessed a year like this.”
In the capital, Beijing, the health authorities reported, on Tuesday, that five deaths from Covid had been recorded, and the outcome, on Monday, was limited to two deaths.
In front of the crematorium in the city of Dongjiao, AFP correspondents reported seeing more than a dozen cars waiting to enter, most of them funeral cars or funeral buses with dark ribbons and bouquets of flowers.
There was a delay in entering the crematorium, and one of the drivers at the front of the queue told AFP that he had been waiting for several hours.
It was not immediately clear if the crowding was caused by the surge in Covid deaths, and the crematorium crew was unwilling to answer any questions.
The cessation of the massive testing campaign made it more difficult to track the surge in Covid infections. And last week, the authorities admitted that it was “impossible” to determine the size of the epidemic’s surge.
And on Tuesday, officials in Beijing announced that those who died due to shortness of breath as a result of the virus are the ones who are exclusively listed as dead from Covid.
“Currently, after infection with the Omicron mutant, chronic diseases remain the leading cause of death,” said Wang Jiaqiang of Peking University First Hospital at a press conference.
“The elderly suffer from other diseases, and only a small number die due to shortness of breath as a result of infection with Covid,” he continued.
“We do not avoid the risks of Covid. At the same time, we have to evaluate the risks of Covid scientifically,” he continued.
And Monday, the US State Department said that the surge in infections in China had become a source of international concern.
“We know that the virus spreads at any time, that (the virus) is out of control and that it is capable of mutating and posing a danger to people anywhere,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The outcome of the virus is causing concern in the rest of the world, given the size of China’s gross domestic product and the size of the Chinese economy,” he said.