As COVID-19 cases continue to rise at a meteoric pace in China, crematoriums throughout the country are getting packed and people are forced to wait for hours to get their loved ones cremated, American broadcaster CNN reported.
Social media posts have described the frustration faced by many people in trying to find a hearse and the difficulty of occupying a slot for cremation at a funeral home, the report added.
It further added China’s state media is deliberately ignoring scenes of crowded hospital wards and packed crematoriums. Chinese officials have said that only a few people are dying due to COVID-19 as per the government’s own tally.
An unverified user on Twitter who goes by the name Byron Wan claimed, “Beiqing Community Newspaper Tongzhou Edition reported on Dec 22 that a funeral home/crematory in Tongzhou has been operating at maximum capacity, currently cremating 140-150 bodies per day, up from 40 before!”
As per the CNN report, a major crematorium in Beijing was fully packed, with a long queue of cars outside the cremation area waiting to get in. Smoke constantly billowed from the furnaces and yellow body bags were piling up inside metal containers. Grieving families waiting in queue held photographs of the victims.
Some people said they had been waiting for more than a day to cremate their loved ones, who died after getting infected with COVID-19. One man told CNN that the hospital where his friend passed away was too full to keep the body and his friend was kept on the floor of the hospital.
In the nearby shops selling funerary items, a florist said that she was running out of stock. Citing social media footage, the report said that crematoriums in many parts of China are struggling to keep up with an influx of bodies.
Facing growing scepticism that it is downplaying COVID deaths, the Chinese government defended the accuracy of its official tally by revealing it had updated its method of counting fatalities caused by the virus, CNN reported.
According to the latest guidelines from the National Health Commission, only those whose death is caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after getting infected with COVID-19 are considered as Covid deaths, said Wang Guiqiang, a top infectious disease doctor.
Wang Guiqiang said those deemed to have died due to another disease or underlying condition, such as heart attack, will not be counted as a virus death, even if they were infected with COVID-19 at the time, reported CNN.
Explaining China’s criteria for counting Covid deaths on Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s emergency chief Michael Ryan said the definition was ‘quite narrow’.
“People who die of COVID die from many different (organ) systems’ failures, given the severity of infection,” Ryan said, adding, “So limiting a diagnosis of death from Covid to someone with a Covid positive test and respiratory failure will very much underestimate the true death count associated with Covid.”
According to Wang, the Chinese doctor, the definition change was necessitated by Omicron’s mild nature, which is different from the Wuhan strain which was witnessed at the initial stage of the pandemic, when most patients died from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that this is more or less the same strict criteria, as per the news report. According to Jin, the definition was only broadened in April this year to include some COVID patients, who died of underlying conditions during the Shanghai lockdown.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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