19 Mar 2020
In coronavirus-battered Italy, victims face death alone, burials postponed
Written byShalini OjhaWorld
A generation has been wiped out and it just makes you cry, an official of CFB, the largest funeral director in Italy's Bergamo, said, painting a picture of what exactly is happening in the European nation, that coronavirus has ripped apart.
On Wednesday, the death toll saw the biggest-ever surge, with 475 dying, taking the total to 2,978 deaths.
Over 35,000 are infected.
Funerals are banned, some people are dying inside homes
As part of nationwide lockdown, funerals have been banned across Italy. The dead aren't getting proper goodbyes and those who have lost someone, are mourning alone. Some of the infected people are dying at homes, and their bodies are being collected after hours.
The ambulance line is always busy and funeral companies across Bergamo, one of the worst-affected provinces, receive dozens of calls every hour.
In a normal month, funeral workers buried 120 people
According to Guardian, in Lombardy's Bergamo 1,640 have died. Since March 1, CFB has carried out almost 600 burials. Antonio Ricciardi, the President of CFB, said they would have buried 120 in a normal month.
There's a shortage of coffins too, and the risk of funeral workers getting infected is also looming.
All this led to a huge backlog of dead bodies awaiting burial.
Hospitals keep dead in coffins immediately
Hospitals, on the other hand, have started following a strict procedure. The dead are placed in coffins, without being clothed, right away due to the risk of infecting the living.
"Families can't see their loved ones or give them a proper funeral, this is a big problem on a psychological level," said Ricciardi.
In some families, those who have survived are also sick.
The deaths at homes are all the more traumatic
In case, someone passes away at their home, the process to get the body removed is long-drawn.
Two separate doctors arrive to confirm the news, no later than 30 hours after the person dies.
Stella, a local teacher, said that when an 88-year-old died, after keeping ill for some days, his body was sealed in a room by officials until they arranged a coffin.
People aren't able to say final goodbyes
That relatives can't dress the deceased and mouth their final goodbye is tormenting. Alessandro, who lost his 76-year-old uncle, said, "Usually you would be able to dress them and they would stay one night in the family home. None of this is happening."
No funerals have left many devastated
Brother Marco Bergamelli, one of the saints at Church of All Saints in Bergamo, said, "This tragedy reminds us to love life." He said he tried to give consolation but failed.
In the village of Zogno, the local priest rings death knell just once every day, to stop it from ringing during all hours.
And in Casalpusterlengo, no funerals have left believers upset.
Obituaries have taken over local newspapers
The devastation was reflected in local newspapers too. L'Eco di Bergamo, a daily in Bergamo, dedicated one page to obituaries on February 9. On March 13, 10 pages were printed to commemorate the departed.
"For us, it's a trauma, an emotional trauma," said the paper's editor Alberto Ceresoli, adding that those who died didn't have someone to hold their hands.