(CTN NEWS) – BEIJING – In the Chinese capital on Saturday, days after China lifted draconian epidemic restrictions, heavily adorned hearses carrying the dead queued the driveway to a certified COVID-19 cremation.
The extremely contagious Omicron strain has recently affected services in Beijing, ranging from catering to package deliveries.
The 22 million-person city’s funeral houses and crematoriums are also having trouble keeping up with demand as more employees and drivers who have tested positive for the coronavirus call in sick.
Since abruptly ending several of the cornerstones of its zero-COVID policy, championed by President Xi Jinping, on December 7 in response to enormous public demonstrations against the protocol.
China has failed to formally disclose any COVID deaths.
This week, a U.S.-based research organization warned that the number of cases in the nation might skyrocket and that over a million Chinese citizens could contract COVID by 2023.
A sudden increase in fatalities would put the government’s efforts to transition China away from constant testing, lockdowns.
And severe travel restrictions to a world that has largely opened up to living with the disease to the test.
A Reuters reporter observed over 30 motionless hearses on Saturday afternoon in the driveway leading to the Dongjiao funeral home, a COVID-designated crematory in Beijing.
An ambulance and a waggon with a body wrapped in a sheet inside the open trunk that was subsequently taken by personnel wearing hazardous suits and transferred to a preparation area for cremation were parked nearby.
Three of the several chimneys continuously billowed smoke.
A funeral home a few meters from the crematorium was where the Reuters reporter first noticed roughly 20 yellow body bags on the ground, each containing a corpse.
Reuters was unable to immediately determine whether the deaths were caused by COVID.
Under the condition of anonymity, the parking security guard and the proprietor of an urn store inside the funeral home complex told Reuters that the number of fatalities was higher than usual during this time.
And higher than it had been before most pandemic curbs were lifted on December 7.
The roughly a dozen funeral homes in Beijing have also had staffing issues due to sick workers.
"We've fewer cars and workers now," a staffer at Miyun Funeral Home told Reuters, adding that there was a mounting backlog of demand for cremation services.
"We've many workers who tested positive."
"You can transport the body here yourself, it's been busy recently"
— Sandbird (@Sandbird_) December 17, 2022
A staff member at Miyun Funeral Home told Reuters over the phone, also under the condition of anonymity, “We’ve fewer cars and workers currently,” adding that there was a growing backlog in demand for cremation services.
“Many of our employees tested positive.”
It was unclear right away whether the difficulty in meeting the rising demand for cremations was also brought on by an increase in COVID-related fatalities.
According to a member of staff at Huairou Funeral Home, a body was stored there for three days before it was burned.
The employee said, “It’s been busy recently, but you can carry the body there alone.”
ASSESSING DEATHS AND CASE DATA
The last COVID death report from China was made on December 3. The most recent mortality in the Chinese capital was on November 23.
Nevertheless, reputable Chinese news site Caixin reported on Friday that two seasoned state media journalists had passed away in Beijing after getting COVID-19.
Making them some of the first known fatalities since China scrapped the majority of its zero-COVID regulations.
The death of a 23-year-old Sichuan medical student from COVID on December 14 was reported on Saturday by Caixin.
CNN: “This thing came on like a runaway freight train…” former Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
Covid cases explode in Beijing leaving city streets empty and daily life disrupted. TODAY China's National Health Commission gave up tracking new Covid cases. pic.twitter.com/H6WhNIrTgY
— shon gables (@shongables) December 14, 2022
The official COVID death toll, which as of Saturday stood at 5,235 since the pandemic first appeared in Wuhan Province in late 2019, has not changed, according to the National Health Commission.
China’s 1.4 billion people have been instructed to stay at home if they have minor symptoms after restrictions were lifted earlier this month as cities all throughout the country prepare for the first waves of infections.
According to renowned Chinese epidemiologist Wu Zunyou, if the rigorous containment measures had been eased earlier—say, on January 3 of this year—250,000 people would have perished in China.
According to Wu, as of Dec. 5, the percentage of very or critically ill COVID patients had decreased from 3.32% last year and 16.47% in 2020 to 0.18% of recorded cases.
He stated without further explanation that this demonstrates how the disease’s fatality rate in China is steadily declining.
Wu Zunyou: "10 tedbir, vefat sayısı 3 yılın en düşük seviyesindeyken açıklandı" https://t.co/3zUlJKYGKz
— hibyahaberajansi (@hibyahaberajans) December 17, 2022
Because fewer tests are being conducted nationwide as a result of the relaxation of zero-COVID regulations, official statistics on instances are no longer a credible indicator.
As of Wednesday, China ceased reporting the number of asymptomatic cases due to a dearth of PCR testing among those who had no symptoms.
The paucity of officially recorded COVID deaths for the previous 10 days has sparked discussion about data sharing on social media, which has also been fueled by a lack of data on hospitalizations and the number of very ill patients.
“Why are these statistics not available? What is happening? Do they simply not announce them, or did they not tally them? “On Chinese social media, someone enquired.
To deal with the rising COVID infections across China, local education authorities in Shanghai, more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Beijing, instructed most schools on Saturday to hold classes online beginning on Monday.
"Why can't these statistics be found? What's going on? Did they not tally them or they just aren't announcing them?" one netizen on Chinese social media asked.
— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) December 17, 2022
The Shanghai Disney Resort warned on Saturday of impending labor shortages by stating that while the theme park was still open and running regularly, entertainment options may be reduced as a result of a fewer workforce.
On Saturday, there weren’t many people visiting one of Shanghai’s Christmas markets in the city center.
One employee at the ticket counter remarked, “Everyone is too terrified.”
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