Crematoria can't handle Covid fatalities 'piling up'

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Crematoria can't handle Covid fatalities 'piling up'

Korea’s crematoria are struggling to keep up with the rising Covid-19 death toll.
The backlog is so great that families are switching from three-day funerals — the most common type, in which the body of the deceased is cremated on the third day after death — to four, five or even six days.
According to the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, only 5.7 percent of families who lost loved ones in Seoul from March 1 to 13 were able to hold three-day funerals. The rest were forced to have longer funerals.
From March 1 to 9, that rate was 17 percent. The fall to 5.7 percent in the next four days suggests it could reach zero in the coming days.
The situation outside the capital is slightly better than in Seoul, but there is still too much demand.
The rate of three-day funerals held nationwide fell from 47.4 percent from March 1 to 9 to 39.7 percent from March 1 to 13. That rate was 86 percent in January and 78 percent in February.
On Wednesday, the country added 164 more deaths from the coronavirus, a slight drop from Tuesday’s record-high of 293 deaths. Tuesday was the sixth day fatalities remained above 200.
The number of fatalities from March 6 to 12 totaled 1,348, which was a 49.6 percent increase from the previous week’s 901 deaths. Compared to the month before, when 187 deaths were reported in a week, the increase was 620.8 percent.
On March 11, the government made recommendations to handle the load, including extending the hours of cremation facilities, but they didn't do the trick.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the government’s online crematorium reservation service Ehaneul ( showed that crematoria in Seoul were fully booked until Saturday, and the only way to book a slot for Sunday was by trying the waiting list.
“Until February, reservations were available for cremations for four-day funerals, but with the death toll soaring since the beginning of this month, it became difficult to even reserve for [cremations on] the fifth day,” Son Jeong-won, manager at the Greeda Funeral Service, told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Families have to go to countryside crematoria to hold a three-day funeral,” Son added. 
Park Il-do, president of the Korea Funeral Association, described the situation is “more than serious” with “dead bodies piling up.
“Families are forced to hold six-day funerals,” Park said. “Due to a lack of mortuary freezers, some funerals halls leave the bodies outside of freezers.
“The number of cremation incinerator operations should be increased, but it’s not working well,” said Park, adding, “Spare incinerators that were kept in case of a problem should also be used.”
“Seoul already lacked crematoria, but the shortage intensified after the Covid-19 pandemic,” an official from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters said. “Crematoria located in neighboring regions of Seoul, like Gyeonggi, Incheon, Chungcheong and Gangwon, should increase operating hours and divide up [demand.]" 

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