Brazil now has the second-worst death toll with more than 42,000 lost to coronavirus. As a result of this, workers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have started digging up the bodies of the dead to make room for Covid-19 victims.
Brazil has now overtaken the UK to hold the second-highest number of deaths in the world behind the United States.
In a statement made on Friday, Sao Paulo’s municipal funeral service said that the remains of people who died at least three years ago will be exhumed and put in numbered bags, then stored temporarily in 12 metal storage containers it has purchased.
The containers will be delivered to several cemeteries within 15 days, the statement said.
Many health experts predict the peak of Brazil’s pandemic will arrive in August, having spread from the big cities where it first appeared into the nation’s interior.
The virus has so far killed almost 42,000 Brazilians, and Brazil passed the United Kingdom on Friday to become the country with the world’s second highest death toll.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said Friday that the situation in Brazil remains ‘of concern,’ although acknowledged that intensive care bed occupancy rates are now below 80% in most areas of the country.
He added that, ‘Clearly the health system in Brazil across the country needs significant support in order to sustain its effort in this regard. But the data we have at the moment supports a system under pressure, but a system still coping with the number of severe cases.’
At Sao Paulo’s biggest cemetery, Vila Formosa, Adenilson Costa was among workers in blue protective suits digging up old graves Friday. He said their work has only grown more tiring during the pandemic, and as he removed bones from unearthed coffins, he said he fears what is to come.
‘With this opening of malls and stores we get even more worried. We are not in the curve; we are in the peak and people aren’t aware,’ Costa said. ‘This isn’t over. Now is the worrisome moment. And there are still people out. Gravediggers at Sao Paulo’s largest cemetery Vila Formosa buried 1,654 people in April. Numbers for May and June aren’t yet available.
Before the pandemic, Costa said, he and colleagues would exhume remains of about 40 coffins per day if families stopped paying required fees for the plots. In recent weeks that figure has more than doubled.
Remains stored in the metal containers will eventually be moved to a public ossuary, according to the statement from the city’s funeral office. Its superintendent, Thiago Dias da Silva, told the Globo network that containers have been used before and they are more practical and affordable than building new ossuaries.
‘People say nothing scares gravediggers. COVID does,’ Costa said.