Kiev crematorium doubles cremations as virus deaths soar

·2-min read
Smoke rises from the crematorium of a Kiev cemetery, amid high Covid death figures in Ukraine (AFP/Sergei SUPINSKY)

The Kiev crematorium has been carrying out up to double the number of cremations compared to the summer months, its spokesman told AFP, as Ukraine battles a devastating new wave of coronavirus infections and low vaccination rates.

One of Europe's poorest countries, Ukraine recently reported record numbers of daily Covid-19 deaths and cases, resulting in a significant increase in burials and, in particular, cremations.

"To date, compared to the summer period, the number of processions has doubled," Andriy Yashchenko, a spokesman for the Kiev crematorium, told AFP.

"If during the summer there was on average 60 processions per day, now there are between 100 and 120," he said.

Ukraine reported 442 daily coronavirus fatalities on Monday, the second-highest number in the world after Russia.

Ukrainian authorities initially struggled to source vaccine doses and have since fought to convince vaccine-sceptic Ukrainians to get inoculated.

But new restrictions requiring vaccinations have seen people across the country flock to vaccine centres.

The crematorium -- one of three such facilities in the ex-Soviet country -- is part of one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Kiev.

Yashchenko said the facility has stayed open for hours more than usual in recent weeks, and has sometimes been operating until midnight.

He added that the cremation of coronavirus victims is different as indoor services and open caskets are prohibited.

On Monday, an AFP correspondent saw two processions that followed the cremations of coronavirus victims.

Relatives of the victims distributed candles outside the building, and a priest read a prayer before the closed coffins were taken away for cremation.

Mini vans brought coffins to the entrance of the giant Soviet-era crematorium, built in the distinct heavy style.

After the cremations, smoke was visible from a nearby mound by the crematorium.

Mask-wearing mourners came to pay their respects, bearing flowers.

Yashchenko said that in October the facility cremated over 2,800 people, compared to 1,400 in August.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ukraine has recorded more than three million coronavirus cases and 77,000 deaths.

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