Images taken by Maxar Technologies in late December and early January show a funeral home on the outskirts of Beijing, which appears to have constructed a brand-new parking area, as well as lines of vehicles waiting outside of funeral homes in Kunming, Nanjing, Chengdu, Tangshan and Huzhou.
Social media posts, too, revealed long wait times and overwhelmed staff at other facilities.
A combination of satellite photos shows a cemetery in Yueyang (Reuters image/Maxar Technologies)
As per reports, makeshift facilities are being used to store the deceased, as overworked staff try to keep up with the volume of crates containing yellow body bags, and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones.
Staff members speak next to several body bags at a funeral home in Shanghai. (Reuters image)
As China grapples with its first-ever national Covid wave, emergency wards in small cities and towns southwest of Beijing are overwhelmed.
Intensive care units are turning away ambulances, relatives of sick people are searching for open beds, and patients are slumped on benches in hospital corridors and lying on floors due to lack of beds.
A combination of satellite photos shows a funeral home in Chengdu(Reuters image/Maxar Technologies)
China recently rolled-back its strict ‘Zero Covid’ approach, which had sparked mass unrest after more than two years of tight controls on citizens’ personal lives.
China’s strict policy shielded its population from the kind of mass deaths seen in Western nations — a contrast repeatedly driven home by the Communist Party to illustrate the supposed superiority of its restrictions.
The lifting of restrictions, which came after widespread protests against them, means Covid is spreading largely unchecked and likely infecting millions of people a day, according to some international health experts.
A combination of satellite photos shows Tangshan city funeral home (Reuters image/Maxar Technologies)
The Chinese government continues to insist that fewer than 40 people have died of Covid in China since December 7, when ‘Zero Covid’ restrictions — aimed at entirely eliminating the virus — were suddenly dropped and infection numbers exploded.
Since the start of the pandemic, exactly how the Chinese authorities count Covid deaths has been a point of contention.
As per reports, since December, only people who died of respiratory failure have been included in the official count, regardless of whether they tested positive for the virus.
This is what China’s Covid outbreak looks like
Chinese health officials have tried to reassure the public by citing the low fatality rate, 0.1 per cent, of the omicron variant. Officially, just over 5,200 people have died of Covid in China since the beginning of the pandemic.
However, projections made by international experts put the real death toll closer to 5,000 people each day, with several models predicting more than 1 million Covid deaths in China in 2023.
(With agency inputs)