By Jiri Skacel and Matthias Rietschel
MEISSEN, Germany (Reuters) - A German crematorium in the eastern state of Saxony, which has been hit hard by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, is struggling to keep up with the number of people who have died from COVID-19 just before Christmas.
"We are currently working 24 hours a day, from Monday to Sunday, without a break," said Meissen crematorium manager Joerg Schaldach.
"We will of course have to keep on cremating and now the holidays are around the corner," he said, adding special procedures were required for people who died from COVID-19.
"The coffins are sealed, the deceased are wrapped in accident-like bags, so there is barely any possibility of having contact with the virus," said Schaldach.
The eastern German state of Saxony has reported the highest number of deaths per capita in Germany over the course of the pandemic, with around 57 in 100,000 people there having died. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
Schaldach also said the crematorium at Meissen had space to store the bodies of the deceased. He hopes he will not have to use a building that has been arranged for emergencies and which could hold up to 2,000 bodies.
Germany reported a new coronavirus daily death toll high of 962 on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 27,968. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped by 24,740 to 1,554,920, RKI data showed on Wednesday.
A Forsa poll showed on Wednesday that whereas the majority of Germans stick to coronavirus hygiene rules, most male supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in eastern German states do not wear face masks when social distancing is not possible. Saxony is a stronghold for the AfD.
(Reporting by Jiri Skacel and Matthias Rietschel; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)