Long Queues, Higher Fees for Cremations in China Amid Recent Spike of COVID-19

Sophia Lam
By Sophia Lam
December 22, 2022China News
Long Queues, Higher Fees for Cremations in China Amid Recent Spike of COVID-19
Workers in protective gear handle a coffin and coffin case at Dongjiao Funeral Parlor, reportedly designated to handle COVID-19 fatalities, in Beijing on Dec. 19, 2022. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Crematoriums across China are being overwhelmed as the country experiences a flare-up of the pandemic following the relaxing of zero-COVID rules.

In Shenyang, in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province, residents say deaths have spiked since the government decided to lift lockdowns and mandatory testing. However, it is difficult to confirm that the deaths are due to COVID-19 because official numbers don’t reflect the long lines at crematoriums.  The official death toll in the province since the recent outbreak stands at two deaths.

Bodies Line Hospital Corridors: Video

A 28-second video clip posted on social media shows nine bodies stacked in a hospital in Shenyang.

In the footage dated Dec. 18, a man is heard saying: “Chief, they died last night and are still waiting for vehicles to take them to the crematorium.” He counts three bodies in a room and six in a corridor of the hospital.

The man in the video doesn’t name the hospital, and The Epoch Times wasn’t able to independently verify the authenticity of the footage or if the patients being discussed had died of COVID-19.

The scenario is occurring in multiple hospitals in Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning Province, according to one resident.

“Many patients died in emergency departments of multiple hospitals in Shenyang,” a funeral service company owner, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on Dec. 19.

“I have been to many emergency departments to take away the dead,” he said.

“Too many deaths; there is no way to take out all the bodies in time because all the hospitals are like that,” the owner added.

Two to Three Day Wait for Funeral Services and Cremations

The owner of another funeral service company in Shenyang told The Epoch Times on Dec. 19 that there are many deaths in the emergency departments of local hospitals, with a long wait for corpses to be taken away.

“There aren’t enough cold storage cabins in the hospitals in Shenyang,” said the owner, who also asked to remain anonymous. “The families choose to take the bodies to other cities or keep them at home. They have to wait for at least two days for cremation if they keep the bodies at home in Shenyang.”

A Shenyang funeral service staffer told The Epoch Times in a phone interview on Dec. 19 that it takes three to five hours to arrange for a hearse to take the body from the hospital’s mortuary to the crematorium, where it has to wait an additional three days in line for the cremation. He refused to give his name.

“We charge 1,500 yuan ($320) for a one-stop [booking] service, including queueing up for the hearse and the cremation. People are fortunate to be able to book a place in the queue, let alone arrange for cremation,” the staffer said.

A video clip obtained by The Epoch Times shows a long queue of hearses outside a crematorium in Shenyang.

The Epoch Times wasn’t able to verify the authenticity of the footage.

A staffer at another funeral parlor in Shenyang told The Epoch Times that crematories in the city are operating around the clock. The waiting time for cremation is at least two days.

It is possible to go elsewhere for cremation, but it costs more. “If clients decide to have bodies cremated in Faku County [about 70 miles north of Shenyang], it is quicker but more expensive. The total expenses will be nearly 10,000 yuan [$1,432] because we need to pay 5,000 yuan [about $716] to the crematorium in Faku,” the staffer said, adding that the cremated remains must be kept in Faku and cannot be taken to Shenyang.

A staffer at a funeral service company in the Huanggu District of Shenyang told The Epoch Times that due to the many deaths recently, crematories aren’t able to take direct calls from families of the deceased.

“The families of the dead have to make cremation appointments via funeral service companies,” the staffer said, “We help them make appointments with the crematories, and the waiting time is two to three days.” He didn’t give a price for the service.

An anonymous resident told The Epoch Times that COVID-19 is rampant in the city. “We can’t get medicines [for COVID] and there are long queues in hospitals,” the resident said. “We are all panicked.”

Need an Ambulance? Get in Line

The Epoch Times reached out to Shenyang’s local emergency number. The staffer who answered the call said that patients need to queue up for an ambulance. “We don’t know how long you need to wait for an ambulance. If it’s urgent, you’d better get a vehicle by yourself and send the patient to the hospital. If not, you can register with us and then wait in line,” the staffer told The Epoch Times.

According to an article by Agence France-Presse (AFP), a staffer at a funeral service company in Shenyang said corpses were being left unburied for up to five days because crematories are “absolutely packed.”

Asked if the long wait was due to COVID-19, the staff member replied: “What do you think? I’ve never known a year like this one,” reported AFP on Dec. 20.

The Liaoning provincial government recorded a total of 3082 COVID-19 cases and two deaths as of Dec. 17.

China’s National Health Commission reported three COVID-19 cases in Liaoning Province on Dec. 20. It reported no new deaths for the day in the country.

Xiao Lusheng, Zhao Fenghua, and Hong Ning contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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