Beijing Crematoriums Operate Around the Clock Amid a Recent Spike of COVID-19 Deaths

Beijing Crematoriums Operate Around the Clock Amid a Recent Spike of COVID-19 Deaths
Medical workers wear PPE as they arrive with a patient on a stretcher at a fever clinic in Beijing, China, on Dec. 9, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Sophia Lam

Funeral homes and crematoriums in Beijing are extremely busy as the number of deaths increased significantly amid a recent flare-up of COVID-19 in China’s capital. The communist regime eased its stringent zero-COVID measures on Dec. 7.

Those employees infected by COVID-19 have to keep working, as the earliest open cremation slot is Dec. 20, an employee of Babaoshan Crematorium told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on Dec. 14.

“We are very busy every day; we have never been so busy before,” Mr. Lin (pseudonym), a staffer working at Babaoshao Crematorium told The Epoch Times.

“Calls keep flooding in, and we don’t have any time to take a break,” Mr. Lin said.

A netizen using the name @xz1999999 uploaded a video clip to Twitter, showing a long queue of hearses reportedly waiting to enter the Babaoshan Crematorium grounds.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Dec. 14 that in Beijing there are 12 funeral parlors with a total of 90 furnaces. A typical cremation takes 25 to 40 minutes. If all 90 furnaces operate around the clock across the city, potentially, over 3,000 cremations occur every day. However, staffers of funeral homes told RFA that they were "operating with several days of backlog."

The Epoch Times reached out to several of the funeral parlors in Beijing on Dec. 14, and employees answering the phone replied that there is a waiting list of six to eleven days due to a huge backlog.

Ms. Li (pseudonym), an employee with the Eastern Suburban Funeral Parlor, told The Epoch Times that their earliest open slot is Dec. 21.

“All our staffers are positive for COVID, but we must all continue working,” said Ms. Li, adding that all farewell ceremonies have been canceled.

“People with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable,” Li said, “The cold weather coupled with infection of COVID is the main reason for the sudden increase in deaths.”

A staffer at Changping Funeral Home told The Epoch Times that he had been working non-stop for over 20 hours.

“Ours is one of the three funeral homes in Beijing that are exclusively used for people who died of COVID. So many deaths!” The anonymous staffer said that his funeral home, capable of more than 100 cremations a day, has to operate around the clock. The earliest slot at Changping Funeral Home is Dec. 25, which is an 11-day wait time, according to the staffer. This facility has the longest wait list among the funeral services interviewed by The Epoch Times.

Lack of Cold Storage Facilities

A Beijing netizen complained on a Chinese social media platform that he couldn’t find a cold storage facility for his father who died at home.

“It has been three hours now since my father passed away and his body has been at home. I have contacted multiple funeral homes in Beijing, which all told me that they didn’t have any cold storage left,” the netizen wrote, “I called the police, who asked me to call Beijing’s government service hotline, but there was no one answering the call.”

The Epoch Times wasn't able to reach out to the netizen.

Another netizen asked for help online for an immediate cremation of her grandmother. She told The Epoch Times on Dec. 15 that her grandma passed away on the morning of Dec. 14, and that she had to wait until 12 a.m. of Dec. 15 before a hearse could pick up her grandma’s body.

“I called 120 [China’s emergency number] at 9 yesterday, and the operator told me that more than 10,000 people were on the waiting list,” the netizen who preferred to stay anonymous told The Epoch Times. She said that all the mortuaries in Beijing were full and she had to file a complaint with the government to get pickup service of a hearse.

A medical staffer at Dongfang Hospital Beijing University of Chinese Medicine wrote in a WeChat group: “As an increasing number of employees of the funeral homes have tested positive recently, and due to the increased death rate in Beijing, the wait time for cremation is at least five to seven days, and there is a huge backlog of remains. Please do not call me, as there is no vacant cold storage to lend.”

The WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan said at a press briefing in Geneva on Dec. 14 that the virus was spreading “intensively” in China long before the lifting of zero-COVID measures, reported Reuters.
Zhao Fenghua and Hong Ning contributed to this report.