Brazil’s largest city has stepped up its efforts to clear graves in one of its major cemeteries to make room for COVID-19 victims as deaths continue to soar at a staggering pace.
The decision to remove 1,056 bodies from the old tombs came after the southeastern state of São Paulo recorded record daily burials last week.
At Vila New Cachoeirinha cemetery in northern São Paulo, gravediggers were spotted working in white hazmat suits on Thursday opening the graves of people buried years ago.
The decomposed remains were put in large bags before cemetery staff transferred them to another location.
Gravediggers gathered at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil last Thursday, to unearth remains from graves as part of a state order to make room victims of COVID-19 to be buried. State reported pandemic record of 9,350 people buried in March after succumbing to devastating virus
An aerial photograph of the Vila Nova Cachoeirinha cemetery in the southeastern Brazilian city of São Paulo last Thursday. Gravediggers have excavated old graves and removed the remains of people who died years ago so that the cemetery would have enough space to bury victims of the coronavirus pandemic
A gravedigger in a protective suit treats pieces of an old damaged coffin during excavations at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, Thursday
Moving remains is standard practice in cemetery operations, the town clerk responsible for funeral services said in a statement. But it has gained renewed urgency as Brazil suffers from the worse wave of coronavirus since the pandemic started more than a year ago.
On Monday, Brazil’s Ministry of Health recorded the highest daily COVID-19 death toll for São Paulo, with 1,389 state residents dying from the virus over a 24-hour period.
No other state in Brazil has been more affected by the coronavirus pandemic than São Paulo, which has reported 77,165 deaths and 2,532,047 cases.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the South American nation is the second deadliest in the world after the United States, with 332,752 dead and 13,013,601 as of Tuesday.
A gravedigger wearing a protective suit hands a bag to another person during excavations at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, last Thursday. São Paulo state tops the list with 77,165 deaths and 2,532,047 cases
A gravedigger hands a colleague a bag of bones excavated from a tomb at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Cemetery in São Paulo last Thursday.
Aerial view of an excavator opening graves on a piece of land at Vila Nova Cachoeirinha Cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, where COVID-19 victims will be buried. A total of 9,350 São Paulo residents who died of the coronavirus were buried in March – an increase of 56% from the previous month. The previous peak was 8,368 people buried in May 2020
Brazil has averaged about 3,000 deaths and 75,500 new cases per day in the past week – a percentage that has been on a steady rise since February.
São Paulo has also resorted to nighttime funerals to keep up with demand, with some cemeteries allowed to stay open until 10pm.
At the Vila Formosa cemetery, workers wearing masks and full protective equipment were digging rows of graves under floodlights and a full moon last week.
Coffins containing the bodies of victims who lost their battles with COVID-19 followed. A 32-year-old man was lowered into a plain wooden box. Masked relatives gathered at the grave of a 77-year-old woman before she, too, was lowered into a grave.
A police officer receives a dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, the first day of government vaccination for police officers at Barro Branco Military Police Academy in São Paulo.
A total of 9,350 São Paulo residents who died of the coronavirus were buried in March – an increase of 56% from the previous month.
The previous peak was 8,368 people buried in May 2020.
The city of Sao Paulo ended March by registering 419 funerals on Tuesday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. If funerals continue at that rate, City Hall said it will have to take more emergency action, without specifying.
Brazil is currently responsible for about a quarter of the daily COVID-19 deaths worldwide, more than any other country.
Infectious disease experts warn it will only get worse, given President Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on attempts to restrict traffic and a slow rollout of vaccines.