Hearses carrying the bodies lined up at a COVID-19-designated crematorium in Beijing on Saturday. Workers at the dozen city funeral homes had been busier than usual, just days after China relaxed strict pandemic restrictions.
Recent events in Beijing have seen the Omicron variant spread to all areas of catering and parcel delivery. As more drivers and workers test positive for the coronavirus, funeral homes and crematoriums in this 22-million population struggle to meet demand, they are having difficulty meeting demands.
China has yet to report COVID deaths after Dec. 7, when China abruptly ended key tenets its zero-COVID policies that were championed and promoted by President Xi Jinping. This was in response to unprecedented protests against this protocol.
According to a U.S.-based research center, China may see an increase in cases of COVID and more than a million Chinese could be affected by the disease in 2023. Authorities’ attempts to remove China from constant testing, lockdowns, heavy travel restrictions and endless testing would be tested if a sharp increase in deaths occurs. This could put an end to their efforts to realign China with a world which has mostly reopened to living with COVID.
A Reuters reporter saw 30 hearses stop in the driveway to Dongjiao Funeral Home, a COVID designated crematorium in Beijing, on Saturday afternoon.
An ambulance was parked among the others, as well as a wagon that contained a body wrapped in sheeting in an open trunk. Workers in hazmat suits later picked it up and transported it to a room where they would be cremated. The chimneys that billowed smoke smoked incessantly.
The Reuters reporter saw approximately 20 yellow bags containing bodies on the ground, just a few meters from the crematorium. Reuters was unable to determine if these deaths were caused by COVID.
On condition of anonymity the parking security officer and owner of the funeral home’s urn shop told Reuters that the death toll was higher than average and more so in the time period prior to lifting most pandemic curbs.
The staffing of the approximately one dozen Beijing funeral parlours has been affected by sick workers.
Miyun Funeral Home staffer said that they have fewer workers and cars now. He also spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters, saying there is a growing backlog for cremation services. We have many people who were positive for the test.”
However, it was unclear if this increased cremation demand was due to an increase in COVID-related death.
A staffer stated that a corpse was held at Huairou Funeral Home for three days until it could be cremated.
The staffer stated, “You can bring the body here yourself. It’s been busy lately.”
China’s last COVID death was reported by the health authorities on December 3. Last time a Chinese capital reported a death was Nov. 23.
Caixin, a respected Chinese news agency reported Friday that two former state media journalists died from COVID-19 contracted in Beijing. This was the first death since China’s zero-COVID policy.
Caixin announced Saturday that a Sichuan medical student aged 23 died from COVID.
The National Health Commission reported that the official COVID death count of 5,235 has not changed since late 2019 when the pandemic in Wuhan began.
China lifted restrictions on earlier in the month and has asked its population of over 1.4 billion people to return home for mild symptoms. Cities across China are now bracing themselves for first signs of infection.
A prominent Chinese epidemiologist Wu Zunyou stated that 250,000 Chinese would have died if the restrictive containment policies had been removed earlier than Jan. 3, this year.
Wu stated that the percentage of COVID patients who are seriously or severely ill had fallen to 0.8% as of December 5, from 3.32% in 2017 and 16.47% for 2020.
He said that this shows China’s declining mortality rate due to the disease, but he didn’t elaborate.
Because of the decreased testing being conducted across the country, official figures for cases are no longer reliable.
China has stopped publishing the numbers of asymptomatic patients starting Wednesday. This was due to a dearth of PCR testing for people without symptoms.
Social media debate has erupted over the lack of COVID deaths reported for the last 10 days. This was fueled by the dearth in statistics on hospitalisations, and the serious illness.
Why can’t statistics like this be found?” Is there something wrong? They didn’t count them, or are they just not making public announcements? One person asked on Chinese social media.
Shanghai is located more than 1000 km (620 miles), south of Beijing. On Saturday, the local education authorities instructed most schools that classes would be held online beginning Monday in order to deal with increasing COVID infection rates across China.
Shanghai Disney Resort announced Saturday that the entertainment offering may be reduced due to a lower workforce. However, it was operating as normal.
On Saturday, few people visited one of Shanghai’s Christmas markets in the city center.
One ticket counter worker stated that everyone was too afraid.