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Gov't increases capacity of crematoriums to cope with growing COVID-19 deaths

National 17:04 March 22, 2022

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- The government decided to increase the capacity of public crematoriums across the country to cope with the rising death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Tuesday.

The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters announced daily furnace operations at all 60 public crematoriums nationwide will grow to seven times per unit, effective until mid-April.

Last week, the government increased daily furnace operations from an average 3.3 times per unit to seven times in metropolises and five times elsewhere.

This undated photo shows a crematorium in the central city of Sejong. (Yonhap)

The authorities have decided to extend the turnover guideline for metropolises to cover all facilities across the country as the nation battles a surge in virus deaths this month amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

The nation on Tuesday reported 384 deaths, the second highest after the 429 logged last Thursday, raising the total death toll to 13,141. Daily virus fatalities remained under 100 last month.

"The number of bodies that cremation facilities can handle a day increased from about 1,000 to about 1,400, but there are still large gaps among regions," an official of the headquarters said.

"To address the problem, we decided to apply the furnace operational guideline of seven times to all crematoriums across the country," he said.

The daily capacity of public cremation facilities had risen from 1,044 cases as of March 4 to 1,424 as of Monday, according to the headquarters.

The government recommended local governments temporarily allow local cremation facilities to process bodies from outside their jurisdiction.

The headquarters also decided to install additional cold storage containers at funeral facilities. Currently, 1,136 funeral homes nationwide operate fridges for about 8,700 bodies.

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