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US News In Lisbon, a cemetery "overwhelmed" by the dead of the Covid

17:25  19 february  2021
17:25  19 february  2021 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  A Lisbonne, un cimetière © Provided by Le Point

"O n is overwhelmed!", Laments Ricardo Pereira, compacting the clay soil between the graves dug relentlessly in a plot of largest cemetery in Lisbon, quickly filled with Covid-19 dead identified by a simple number.

"This piece of land is filled in about fifty days whereas normally it takes nearly a year", explains to AFP, spade in hand, this 36-year-old gravedigger, employed in the cemetery of Alto from Sao Joao, which overlooks the Tagus estuary.

The work day of his team of gravediggers begins with the burial of two people without resources from a social center in Lisbon, suspected of having been taken away by the Covid, specifies Fausto Caridade, responsible for this Lisbon cemetery .

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So, upon the arrival of the hearse, which no relatives accompany, the four cemetery workers put on as a precaution the regulatory attire for the burials of the Covid dead: mask, blue gloves and a white protective suit that covers them from head to toes.

The two coffins are placed underground side by side, while there are hardly any places available in this section of the cemetery, where the graves are lined up, which can only be distinguished by the number written on a small sign. planted in freshly stirred soil.

"Realize the reality"

In the central aisle of this section, open at the end of December to accommodate the majority of the dead from Covid-19, wreaths of flowers still fresh pile up while an orange excavator is ready to resume service to dig new graves.

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"People should come here to realize the reality," laments Maria Joao Costa, who came to bury her mother, who died of Covid at 80 years old.

"There are still two weeks, my mother received the first dose of the vaccine" in her retirement home, says, moved, this nursing assistant dressed in black, looking at the portrait of her mother that she holds in her hands .

Since the start of the year, Portugal has recorded an average of 180 deaths each day caused by the coronavirus. Excluding micro-states, it is the sixth country in Europe, and in the world, showing the heaviest balance sheet in relation to its population.

With just over 1,500 deaths per million inhabitants since the start of the pandemic, it came behind Italy but ahead of the United States or neighboring Spain.

Confined since mid-January, the country has seen the rate of new contagions drop sharply, and the number of daily deaths has fallen back to around a hundred a day after a record of more than 300, but the number of burials still remains very high.

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Historical mortality peak

"There are always many bodies in the mortuaries waiting to be buried", explains gravedigger Ricardo Pereira. And, of the ten burials planned for the day at the Alto de Sao Joao cemetery, the largest in the Portuguese capital, half are victims of the Covid.

On the main alley of the cemetery, in the middle of the white mausoleums, stands one of the three crematoriums in the city which, since the beginning of the year, has been operating at full speed, from morning to night.

Normally, in January, the number of cremations in Lisbon is a dozen per day. "Currently, they are operating at their maximum capacity, with more than twenty" cremations per day, indicates Sara Gonçalves, person in charge of the Lisbon city hall in charge of the management of cemeteries.

The pandemic has caused in Portugal an unprecedented peak in mortality since the Spanish flu of 1920, with a total of over 123,000 deaths last year. Nearly 16,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid, more than half of which since the start of the year.

19/02/2021 12:57:03 - Lisbon (AFP) - © 2021 AFP

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