Chinese funeral homes report surge in deaths following protests and end of lockdown

Radio Libre Asia (RFA) quoted workers at Chinese funeral homes on Thursday as saying their facilities were struggling to cope with deaths after the Communist Party reportedly ended “large-scale” shutdowns, a move it took after nationwide protests.

According to RFA sources, not only are suspected coronavirus deaths on the rise – a seemingly unusual development, given that Beijing has only admitted a handful of deaths during the entire pandemic, and the highly contagious omicron variants of the Chinese coronavirus are less likely to be deadly than the original outbreak – but funeral homes are struggling with staff shortages due to the disease.

“Due to a number of positive tests among funeral home workers over the past two days, there is now a severe shortage of staff. And due to the recent increase in death rates in Beijing, cremations are now scheduled for 5-7 days. There is a serious problem with the backlog of human remains,” a Beijing hospital worker wrote on social media on Wednesday.

“We are very busy right now, with many cremations every day,” a staff member at Babaoshan Crematorium in Beijing said when RFA called to inquire about the workload.

“It doesn’t matter how many ovens there are; there are a lot of cases and we handle them 24 hours a day, with all-night cremations,” the staffer said, saying it would take at least four days to schedule a cremation.

Baobashan Crematorium has 19 ovens, according to municipal records, each of which should be capable of handling more than 30 cremations per day. RFA estimated that Beijing has enough kilns to cremate more than 3,000 people a day without exceeding capacity.

Other Chinese social media users reported even longer wait times at the city’s crematoriums, and several facilities told RFA that they were full or sold out.

The Chinese government has reported only 31,057 deaths at the World Health Organization (WHO) during the entire pandemic, and only 73 deaths in the past week. Among other clues that the true total could be much higher, RFA cited Taiwanese reports of obituaries appearing in Chinese universities – major centers of the latest wave of protests – and “a recent spike in elderly deaths in Beijing”.

China has been to have problems urging older residents to get vaccinated or vaccinated, in part because they are wary of China’s scandal-ridden pharmaceutical industry, worry about side effects for older people with pre-existing health conditions, and tend to prefer traditional herbal remedies. Unlike most other countries, China’s early vaccination campaigns focused on young workers rather than the vulnerable elderly.

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