The coronavirus pandemic has caused the saturation of funeral companies, especially in Madrid, where the impossibility of meeting the legal deadlines to inhume the deceased due to the hundreds of daily deaths has forced the conversion of an ice rink into an improvised morgue.
This 1,800-square-meter Olympic skating rink is located in the Ice Palace, a shopping center in Madrid that, with the transformation of part of its facilities into a morgue, has become a symbol of the saturation of funeral services.
Masks and personal protective equipment are lacking to ensure that funeral homes, the last link in the health chain, do not become new sources of infection.
They are no longer in the Madrid City Council, which has led the municipal funeral company to stop collecting the bodies of those who died from the coronavirus since this Tuesday, waiting to obtain material.
In the majority private sector, they still weather the situation by diverting protection teams from territories with the fewest deaths to Madrid.
The director of Communication and Institutional Relations of the Mémora Group, Fernando Sánchez Tulla, one of the main entities of funeral services in Spain, acknowledges saturation in crematoriums and cemeteries in Madrid, where services have doubled. Activity in Barcelona has risen 20%.
The employers of the sector, Panasef, sends a message of “tranquility” although he admits that “complicated days and weeks are coming”, as Efe the general secretary of the National Association of Funeral Services, Alfredo Gosálvez.
Professionals in the sector, which employs more than 11,000 people throughout Spain, “are leaving their skin” and despite this they are “invisible”, regrets the employers.
The collapse of Madrid occurs mainly in the incineration. The two municipal crematoriums in the Spanish capital, the South and the Almudena, accuse saturation.
Despite the fact that the municipal funeral -Servicios Funerarios de Madrid (SFM) – keeps them active 24 hours a day, the entrance to the crematorium of the remains is taking “about 2 or 3 days”. at the same time causing a delay in the delivery of the ashes to the relatives.
For this reason, the Madrid City Council has decided to gradually limit the number of cremations, recommending burial, since the jam has not reached the burials.
CEMETERIES HAVE ENOUGH CAPACITY
Images like those of the Italian city of Bergamo, where army trucks moved mortal remains to other municipalities due to the lack of space in the cemetery, are not expected in Madrid, as there is no capacity problem.
“The municipal company has made available to the public 20,000 new burials in the South Cemetery of Madrid, it is not a matter of lack of space, it is a matter of everything being concentrated at the same time,” says Gosálvez.
To illustrate, he explains that 50 to 60 people are usually buried in Madrid daily, but the death toll reached 242 dead between Sunday and Tuesday, only due to coronaviruses.
NO WAKE-UP OR GOODBYE
The funerals are not held in the case of the deceased infected with the virus and in the rest they have been limited to a minimum. The limitation varies, but farewells and ceremonies are reduced to the closest circle, no more than 10 people and the meeting is shortened even to 30 minutes. There are no hugs, you have to keep the safety distance.
Carlos has experienced it in the first person. Confined to his home for the past 15 days because of cancer, he has lost his father during this crisis due to a complicated hip operation. One of his brothers is in Galicia and the other cannot leave his home either because his partner has leukemia.
After a farewell on the phone, the death caused “a very strange situation because you do not see your father, despite the fact that you release yourself a little from the worry of days ago listening to him suffer.” Then comes the “What now?
The procedures can be done by phone but signing “is more complicated”, so Carlos was attended by a funeral worker from the other end of his portal. It is time to choose the coffin, there is no funeral home and they decide to incinerate “but there is a tail” and “maybe in three days they will incinerate him”. They will notify the time “because a person can go,” says Carlos.
“You see yourself in a portal choosing a box, an incineration for which they will charge you 3,500 euros and as they will spend a few days you will have to use a thermal bag that costs between 300 and 400 euros to preserve it. And you wonder why What is not preserved by the city council? Many people cannot afford at this point 4,000 euros for a municipal funeral service, “he says.
In the end, he says, you are left with “you’ve talked to your father and you’re not going to see him anymore” and with the company of those who, in the absence of a wake, send videos and messages. For later, it is also necessary to fulfill his father’s wish: scatter his ashes in his place of origin, Fuentes de la Alcarria, near Brihuega (Guadalajara).
DIGITAL CEREMONIES AND HELP PHONES
Simplifying the paperwork and making it possible to process it electronically, but also facilitating the duel with helplines are some of the initiatives launched by funeral homes.
The Madrid municipal funeral home, for example, offers a listening line to talk about the loss and echoes the telematic attention offered by the Madrid College of Psychologists.