Funeral facilities stretched thin as COVID-19 deaths rise with omicron wave

SEOUL– Funeral-related facilities across Seoul have been crowded as deaths related to COVID-19 have risen sharply amid the recent wave of the omicron variant, industry sources said Thursday.

Daily virus death cases in South Korea, which had remained under the 100 mark last month, spiked up to 128 on March 2 and have since been on an upward trajectory, with the daily tally soaring to a new high of 429 on Thursday.

Unable to meet the sudden rise in deaths from the virus crisis, funeral homes, mortuaries and crematoriums are struggling to receive new clients, many of whom lost their loved ones to the pandemic.

“Our mortuary, which can hold up to 18 sets of remains at a time, is currently full and cannot accept new remains,” a worker at the Seoul National University Hospital told Yonhap News Agency, adding that families often have to wait for days for their deceased loved one to be cremated due to waiting.

Yonsei University Severance Hospital has also seen its mortuary fill up constantly since the surge in omicron patients in the past two months, a hospital representative said. Four of the 18 funeral homes set up at the hospital Thursday were for those who died due to COVID-19.

The 11 cremation incinerators at Seoul Memorial Park in southern Seoul were also running non-stop, with reservations fully booked until Sunday. For some families, the funeral process was stretched as long as six days, double the regular three-day process, due to the waiting process.

“I’ve worked in the funeral industry for six years but never saw such long lines for cremations,” Song Jae-myeong, a employee of funeral service provider Preed Life, told Yonhap News Agency at the park.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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