In coronavirus-hit Beijing, funeral homes with sick workers struggle to keep up

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Funeral homes in the Chinese capital of 22 million people scrambled to keep up with demands for funeral and cremation services on Saturday as workers and drivers tested positive for the novel coronavirus and fell ill up

China abruptly changed its COVID management protocols more than a week ago following the announcement that the Omicron strain had weakened and unprecedented public outcry against the zero COVID policy advocated by President Xi Jinping.

Emerging from endless testing, lockdowns and strict travel restrictions, China is readjusting to a world that has largely reopened to live with COVID.

As cities across the country prepare for the first wave of infections, China has told its 1.4 billion people to care for their mild symptoms at home unless they become severe.

In Beijing, Beijing has not reported any COVID deaths since the Dec. 12 policy change. On July 7, the sick employee had affected service workers from restaurants and delivery companies to its roughly 12 funeral homes.

“We now have fewer cars and fewer workers,” a worker at a funeral home in Miyun told Reuters, adding that there was a growing backlog of demand for cremation services.

“We have a lot of workers who have tested positive.”

It’s unclear whether the difficulty meeting increased cremation demand is due to an increase in COVID-related deaths.

At the Huairou funeral home, it takes three days for a body to be cremated, a staff member said.

“You can transport the corpse by yourself. It’s busy recently.” The staff said.

Chinese health authorities last reported a COVID death on December 12. 3. The last reported death in the Chinese capital was on 10 November. twenty three.

However, respected Chinese news outlet Caixin reported on Friday that two senior state media journalists had died after contracting COVID-19 in Beijing, the first known deaths since China rolled back most of its zero-COVID policy . On Saturday, Caixin reported that a 23-year-old medical student in Sichuan died of COVID on December 12. 14.

Still, the National Health Commission reported no change to its official COVID death toll at 5,235 on Saturday.

According to the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), China’s sudden removal of its extremely strict policies could kill more than 1 million people by 2023.

If those policies were lifted earlier, say January 1st. 3 Renowned Chinese epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said on Saturday that 250,000 people will die in China this year.

If or December. 5. The proportion of severe or critically ill COVID patients has dropped from 3.32% last year and 16.47% in 2020 to 0.18% of reported cases.

That suggested a gradual decline in the death rate in China, he said, without elaborating.

It is unclear whether the proportion of critically ill patients has changed since Dec. 1. 5. Periodic PCR testing and mandatory reporting of cases will be canceled in December. 7.

“normal death”

A staff member of the funeral home in the eastern suburbs said: “There is a long line of hearses here, and it is difficult to tell when there will be vacancies.”

“A normal death,” the worker said when asked if the death was COVID-related.

No COVID deaths reported in the past 10 days have sparked debate on social media over data disclosure, exacerbated by a lack of statistics on the number of hospitalizations and serious illnesses.

“Why can’t I find these statistics? What’s going on? Are they not counting, or are they just not published?” asked a netizen on Chinese social media.

China stopped reporting asymptomatic cases on Wednesday, citing the lack of PCR tests for asymptomatic people, making it difficult to accurately tally the total.

Official data has become an unreliable guide as fewer tests were conducted across the country after the zero-COVID policy was eased.

In Shanghai, more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Beijing, local education authorities on Saturday asked most schools to hold classes online from Monday in response to worsening COVID infections across China.

Shanghai Disney Resort said on Saturday that although the theme park is still operating normally, entertainment offerings may be reduced and the number of employees may be reduced, suggesting a staff crunch is imminent.

Reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing and Winni Zhou in Shanghai, with additional reporting by Jindong Zhang; Editing by Tom Hogg

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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