The Czech crematorium is about to reach its maximum capacity, after a sharp increase in the number of deaths from the emerging coronavirus.
Weeks ago, the Czech Republic was the European country with the largest number of deaths per 100,000 people, according to statistics from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“The burden is heavy on us, and the number of deaths is much more than usual,” Joseph Melish, owner of a private incinerator in the Czech town of Tabor (center), told the French press agency.
“There is an increase of 40%. We are receiving nursing home deaths where most people die from Covid-19; it is difficult,” he added.
Since the end of last October, the daily number of deaths from Covid-19 has been about 200, compared to an average of 300 deaths from the total cause of death, in this member state of the European Union, which has a population of 10.7 million.
According to the European Union for funeral services, cremation is the most common method of burial in the Czech Republic, which has 27 crematoriums on its soil.
The director of the crematorium in Ostrava (east) Ivo Formansek said, “Covid-19 is, of course, a burden for all crematoria.”
This crematorium, which includes 3 furnaces, burns about 11,000 bodies annually, and this number is expected to rise to 12,500 this year due to the epidemic.
“We are working relentlessly, and with the spread of the second wave of the virus, which is causing the number of deaths to rise more than usual, we are facing problems in the absorption capacity,” he told the French press.
This incinerator had to build a new heatsink to double its capacity within a week, while demand began to rise.
Formansek explained that the cold room “has been working since Monday, and I hope that is sufficient.”
Respirators and gloves
And the epidemic that has killed more than 6 thousand people across the country has caused changes in the way the dead are buried.
According to the rules of the Ministry of Health published last March, corpses are not washed, not dressed, and dead hairs are not combed. Rather, they are placed in plastic bags, then disinfected and transferred to a coffin.
“The employees who handle the coffins wear masks and gloves,” Formansek said.
But this may not be enough. Many employees of the militia crematorium have fallen ill, and are recovering from their homes.
“We follow all instructions, but you cannot prevent infection. The employees are in contact with the disease even when they wear all the personal protective equipment,” Formansek added.
The Czech government has included funeral service workers among a group of employees fighting COVID-19 on the front lines.
“We are part of managing the crisis, just like medical teams, and like waste collectors, we are a service that must be provided at all times,” said Oldreska Dvorakova, a spokeswoman for the Prague Cemetery Administration.
According to her, the crematoriums in Prague were less affected than those elsewhere, but the number of funeral attendants was limited to a maximum of 10 people.
“People have stopped asking for traditional funerals, and now they are asking for the farewell night to be postponed to the day in which they place the ashes of the cremated corpse in the grave,” Dvorakova told AFP.
She indicated that this measure forced her company to adapt to new developments.