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Crowded funeral home in China gives families 10 minutes of mourning

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  • Overwhelmed funeral homes in China are struggling with a deluge of deaths as the country moves out of its zero COVID posture.
  • One facility is so busy it’s giving families just 5 to 10 minutes to grieve, according to Bloomberg.
  • The demand for funeral services is so high that people line up outside funeral homes to sell their seats.

As China’s reopening faces a tsunami of new COVID infections, its funeral homes have become the latest industry under siege.

So many people are dying in Shanghai that a funeral home — handling five times as many dead bodies as usual each day — is giving families just five to 10 minutes to mourn the dead in an unremarkable way, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

Longhua Funeral Home placed the bodies on stretchers, allowing mourners to pay their respects before being taken away, the agency wrote.

“The whole system is at a standstill right now,” a Longhua official told Bloomberg.

People on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, posted videos of long queues outside the funeral home, with one user saying that at least thirty people had already started queuing by 2am on Dec. 27. Insider was unable to independently verify the authenticity of these videos.

The demand for funeral services is so high that people have started lining up outside crematoriums to sell their spaces at high prices.

At Baoxing Funeral Parlor, another funeral parlor in Shanghai, local police on Dec. 29 arrested 20 money changers who were queuing “without the need for funeral services” and death certificates, the city’s public security department said on Dec. .

Even in Beijing, public services have been under enormous pressure for weeks. Health authorities said on Dec. 11 that emergency services were overwhelmed with more than 30,000 calls a day, according to the Beijing Daily.

Chen Zhi, chief physician at the Beijing Emergency Medical Center, urged residents to call the medical hotlines only if they were seriously ill. “Currently, resources to respond to emergency calls and dispatch ambulances are very scarce,” he told the Beijing Daily newspaper.

A funeral director places a body on a cart to be cremated at a crematorium in southwest China’s Chongqing city, Dec. 22, 2022.

NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Number of COVID deaths in China remains a mystery

The actual death toll in China after its rapid reopening remains unknown. The central government only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID death toll, excluding patients with other pre-existing illnesses.

So far, official reports from the country’s National Health Commission have acknowledged only six new coronavirus deaths since December 6 – when President Xi Jinping’s government announced a sudden reversal of its zero COVID policy.

The official death count for the entire pandemic — starting in 2019 — stood at 5,241 deaths as of Dec. 24, 2022, when the count was last updated. On Christmas Day, the commission announced that it would no longer provide daily updates of its coronavirus numbers amid a flood of new cases.

Data companies in other parts of the world believe that the death toll in China could reach millions over a period of several months.

Airfinity, a UK-based health data company, estimated that 9,000 people died from COVID every day in China and predicted a total death toll of 1.7 million from the start of reopening through April.

Another analytics firm, Auckland-based Wigram Capital Advisors, warned that 1 million Chinese would die from COVID during the winter.

Meanwhile, officials at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in internal discussions that 250 million people were infected with COVID in the first 20 days of December. The Financial Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. If true, those numbers contradict the government’s last official count of 348,000 infections.

The expected rise in infections among China’s relatively COVID-vulnerable population has the rest of the world on its guard. The US and Japan have imposed coronavirus testing requirements on travelers from China, while Morocco has banned all such travelers from entering altogether.

In response, Beijing criticized nations that impose travel restrictions, saying they “lack scientific basis” and calling them “excessive measures”. Spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press conference, “We firmly reject the use of COVID measures for political purposes, and we will take corresponding measures in response to varying situations based on the principle of reciprocity.”

Longhua Funeral Home, Baoxing Funeral Home and China’s National Health Commission did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.