Surpassed by Covid-19, Sri Lanka carries out collective cremations

Sri Lanka has begun mass cremations of Covid-19 victims whose bodies accumulate in morgues, in parallel with the sharp increase in the number of contaminations, authorities said on Monday. On Sunday night, the Colombo Municipality began cremating 15 bodies at the Colombo General Cemetery crematorium after the island’s main hospital said its morgue was full.

The daily number of virus infections on the island has doubled in a month, reaching more than 2,500 cases and almost 100 deaths. Hospitals are overwhelmed. According to official data, Sri Lanka has so far registered 5,107 deaths and almost 330,000 contaminations. But experts believe that the actual number of victims is higher.

According to the Union of Public Health Inspectors (PHI), the bodies of Covid-19 patients piled up in hospitals over the weekend and 24-hour crematoria were no longer able to respond to the influx. “At this rate, we may have to build new crematoria,” Upul Rohana, director of the PHI union, told reporters in Colombo.

At the Colombo National Hospital morgue, the 66 freezers are full and the bodies are piled up on carts and tables, hospital sources say. Throughout the pandemic, the state has been in charge of cremating the bodies, without returning them to families. For Upul Rohana, increased contamination also means that tracing patient contacts no longer makes sense at this stage.

Restrictions on the coronavirus were tightened on Friday, following reports of sick people dying while waiting to be admitted to crowded hospitals. State ceremonies and public gatherings are prohibited until September 1, the government also announced.

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As of Sunday, just over 11 million people in total, of the island’s 21 million inhabitants, had received at least one dose of vaccine and 2.93 million full vaccinations. This new epidemic wave comes after the relaxation of the restrictions decided by the government in April to allow the celebrations of the traditional Sinhalese and Tamil New Year. The measures were implemented again in May before being relaxed again on July 10.

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