HONG KONG: Traditional wooden coffins are running short in Hong Kong as authorities scramble to add mortuary space in the global financial hub’s battle on COVID-19, which is swamping funeral parlours.
“I have never seen so many bodies piled up together,” said funeral director Lok Chung, 37, who has been working round the clock, with about 40 funerals organised in March, up from roughly 15 in an average month.
“I have never seen family members so upset, so disappointed, so helpless,” Chung, wearing a sober grey suit with a black polo T-shirt, told Reuters.
Since the fifth wave of coronavirus hit the former British colony this year, it has reported more than a million infections and more than 8,000 deaths.
Scenes of bodies stacked in emergency rooms next to patients have shocked many as places in mortuaries have filled up.
A long wait for death documents to be processed has hindered work, added Chung, who rushed from a mortuary last week to make final arrangements for his latest COVID-19 patient.
And the family of a woman who died on Mar 1 were still waiting for papers to let them claim her body, he added.
Also running short are the traditional paper replicas of items, from cars to homes and other personal effects, that are burnt as offerings at Chinese funerals for the dead to use in the afterlife.
Much of the delay is blamed on a logjam in transport from the neighbouring southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which supplies many items, but is now fighting its own COVID-19 outbreak.
The border with Hong Kong is largely closed due to the disease.
Infections among staff at funeral parlours also pose a significant challenge, said another funeral director, Hades Chan, 31.
“Nearly a quarter of people aren’t able to work. So some parlours have to pool staff among themselves to keep running.”