By Sanjeev Sharma
Beijing is currently facing an extraordinary wave of deaths as Covid-19 rips through the population, amid a widespread lack of data as mass, compulsory testing is abruptly halted across the country, RFA reported.
As China moves away from the grueling lockdowns, mass tracking of citizens and daily testing that characterised Communist Party leader Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy, a high-ranking official in the party's law enforcement arm said that a family member of his had died recently, and the family had had to wait five days before they could find a cremation slot.
The person, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said he had only been able to get a cremation that fast due to his rank and connections within the Chinese political system, RFA reported.
According to the person, who works in the Communist Party's political and legal affairs system, which directs and governs law enforcement across the country, the current wave of Covid-19 infections in Beijing was driven by transmissions in hospitals, known as nosocomial infections.
"A relative of mine had been recuperating in hospital (from something else), but the hospitals back then basically weren't discharging anyone, because the 20th Party Congress was on at the time, and they said it was because they feared having them test positive once they got out," the person said.
He described "appalling" scenes inside a number of Beijing hospitals, as the city's healthcare system groaned under the weight of the outbreak, with most of the victims elderly people, RFA reported.
"What we saw was really appalling," he said. "All of the hospital morgues were full, and they were stacking dead bodies on the ground, on top of each other."
"If you call any funeral home in Beijing right now ... they will tell you that they have nowhere to store any more bodies and that you'll have to wait a week or longer (for a cremation)," he said, RFA reported.
An employee who answered the phone at the Mentougou Funeral Home in a northwestern suburb of Beijing said they were currently dealing with five times the usual number of cremations.
"There is no space here ... our cold storage is full and there is nowhere to put (any more bodies)," the employee said. "We only have three or four furnaces and we're cremating 180 people a day."
They said they are now taking bookings for cremations from December 31 at the earliest.
An employee who answered the phone at a funeral parlour in Beijing's Fangshan district said they're no longer taking bookings at all.
China says it has only suffered 5,237 Covid-related deaths during the pandemic, including Monday's deaths -- a number seen as extremely low, considering its population of 1.4 billion people and compared to global standards, RFA reported. (SJ/IANS)