Lifestyle Health & Fitness Even with drive-through funerals, Spain is struggling to keep up with rising...

Even with drive-through funerals, Spain is struggling to keep up with rising COVID-19 deaths

With nearly 14,000 people dead in Spain because of the virus, the country is reeling with shock, grief and anxiety

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With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the world, life is no longer as we know it. The world has slowed to a near-standstill, with borders, businesses and schools closed in many nations. Dining out and going to the cinema are luxuries of the past. We don’t shake hands, we don’t hug; in fact, we don’t see each other anymore. About a third of the planet’s population is living under some form of lockdown. This is the new normal.

In Spain, which has over 140,000 cases of infection, the outbreak has spread like wildfire. Under the national state of emergency, Spanish citizens and residents have been homebound for nearly one month now, and it’s not looking like it’s going to let up soon, with at least three more weeks recently added on to the lockdown timeline.

Most worrying is the nation’s death toll, which continues to rise daily. With nearly 14,000 people dead in Spain because of the virus, the country is reeling with shock, grief and anxiety.

In Madrid, the epicentre of Spain’s pandemic, quick “drive-through” funerals have become the norm.

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CNN reported on Madrid’s La Almudena cemetery, which has been disquietingly busy since the COVID-19 pandemic took off. The capital city accounts for more than 40 per cent of fatalities caused by the coronavirus.

A black hearse with a casket and no more than five persons—a national rule—arrives for a funeral ceremony. But there isn’t enough time to do it traditionally, properly, because in 15 minutes or less, another one will appear. And on it goes.

Catholic priest Father Edduar, who works at La Almudena, took CNN through the rushed process. Five minutes barely elapse—from the time they arrive to the time they leave—and the whole ceremony is over. When the hearse arrives, Father Edduar greets the accompanying family and friends of the deceased and then blesses the closed casket with holy water. Once that’s done, the casket is then loaded onto a gurney and rolled inside the crematorium.

There is no service, there are no words of comfort, no wake to receive visitors, no burial. While Father Edduar does his best, there’s just no more time to be spared to make it more meaningful for the deceased’s people. And then it’s on to the next.

“You can see it in their faces, the great pain,” says Father Edduar. People have not only lost someone they loved, but they don’t even get to give them a proper goodbye with a personalised ceremony. And if you stringently follow social distancing rules, hugs are definitely out of the question, though this might be the time when people need them the most.

Even Spain’s public mourning process has been completely violated by the ongoing pandemic. In Barcelona, the city’s crematorium services are on the brink of complete saturation, so authorities are resorting to “provisional burials” which will last two years, after which cremation will take place.
With Catholic churches closed down all over the country, cemeteries like La Almudena are some of the only places where people can talk or visit with a priest for comfort during these terrible times.
“I try to be close to them. I tell them I’m with them and that they’re not alone. Sometimes it upsets me. I cry,” says Father Edduar. “It might sound a bit strange, but in this historic moment, I consider this a privilege… my life is for the people—to be with them in this crucial moment.”
All over Spain, morgues are unable to handle the sheer volume of bodies being dropped off, so much so that two ice skating rinks are being temporary utilised as morgues. Funeral homes and cemeteries report that they are burying up to three times as many bodies as usual, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues its rampage. /TISG

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