Crematoriums in China struggle as COVID spreads | News of the coronavirus pandemic

Crematoriums in cities across China are struggling to deal with the influx of bodies amid a widening outbreak of COVID-19, media said, as authorities scrambled to install hospital beds and build fever-screening clinics. .

Crematoriums in the cities of Beijing, Chongqing and Guangzhou told the AFP news agency on Tuesday that they were much busier than normal, with one facility reporting that it had run out of space for bodies.

But the news agency said it was not possible to establish whether the increase in deaths was related to COVID-19 and staff declined to answer questions.

In the capital Beijing, security guards were seen patrolling the entrance of a designated COVID-19 crematorium, where more than a dozen vehicles were waiting to enter.

Delays in entering the crematorium were evident, AFP said, with a driver at the head of the line telling the news agency that he had already waited several hours.

In Chongqing, a city of 30 million where authorities this week urged people with “mild” symptoms of COVID-19 to go to work, a crematorium told AFP it had run out of space to store bodies.

“The number of bodies collected in recent days is many times higher than before,” said a staff member who did not give his name. “We are very busy, there are no more cold rooms for the bodies,” they added.

When asked if the deaths were related to COVID-19, staff told AFP to ask the “leaders in charge”.

In the southern megalopolis of Guangzhou, a crematorium in Zengcheng district said it was cremating more than 30 bodies a day.

“We have corps assigned to us from other districts. There is no other option,” said an employee.

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

“It is three or four times busier than in previous years, we are cremating more than 40 bodies a day when before it was only a dozen,” said a staff member.

“All of Guangzhou is like this. We have constantly been receiving calls,” they added, emphasizing that it was “difficult to say” if the increase in bodies was related to COVID-19.

In the central city of Baoding, a crematorium employee told AFP: “Of course, we are busy, what workplace is not busy now?”

low official toll

Despite the reported tension at crematoria, the National Health Commission reported five deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, after two on Monday, all in the capital and were the first deaths reported in weeks.

In all, China has reported just 5,242 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, a very low number by world standards.

But there are growing doubts that the statistics reflect the true consequences of a disease sweeping through Chinese cities after authorities this month began dismantling the country’s strict “zero-COVID” testing and lockdown regime following widespread protests against the restrictions.

Since the restrictions were lifted, some hospitals have been flooded, pharmacies have been emptied of medicines, while many people have entered self-imposed lockdowns, overloading delivery services.

Some health experts estimate that 60 percent of the nation of 1.4 billion people could become infected in the coming months and that more than two million could die.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party-owned Global Times said experts estimate around 2.7 million people with COVID-19 would require care in Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

The tabloid said cities across the country were stepping up efforts to expand ICUs and increase their stockpiles of medical supplies, including in Guangzhou, where authorities increased the number of ICU beds from 455 to 1,385 to prepare for an epidemic spike. scheduled for early January.

The news outlet also quoted observers as saying that even as construction of the ICUs was underway, the lack of fully trained medical staff for the facilities remained a major challenge.

In addition to installing new beds, cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Wenzhou said they have also added hundreds of fever clinics, some in converted sports venues.

The virus is also hurting China’s economy, which is expected to grow less than 3 percent this year, its worst performance in nearly half a century.

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