• Brazil is the second-worst coronavirus hit country
  • Records highest daily COVID-19 death toll for second straight day
  • Brazil accounts for about a quarter of daily COVID-19 deaths 

An alarming rise in the COVID-19 death toll in the Brazilian city of São Paulo has forced gravediggers to empty old graves to make space for the coronavirus victims.

As many as 3,869 people succumbed to the virus on Wednesday as the country recorded its highest daily toll for the second straight day. New cases and deaths have climbed steadily since February in the second-worst affected country after the United States.

Gravediggers opened the tombs of people buried years ago and collected the decomposed remains for removal to another location on Thursday, as the World Health Organization experts issued a warning that the pandemic has put multiple Brazilian states in “critical condition.”

The municipal secretary responsible for funeral services said relocating remains is standard in cemetery operations. But it has taken on renewed exigency as Brazil suffers its worst COVID-19 wave since the pandemic began over a year ago.

Infectious disease epidemiologist at the WHO, Van Kerkhove, warned that the increased transmissibility of new variants was a part of the many challenges the country faced. She said a number of states are in “critical condition” and the situation in hospitals is overwhelming.

WHO assistant director-general Mariangela Batista Galvão Simão stressed the importance of domestic vaccine production to alleviate the pressure.

The sprawling metropolis of São Paulo has also turned to late-night burials in order to keep up with the demand, with some cemeteries authorised to stay open until 10 pm. The workers in the Vila Formosa cemetery dig rows of graves under flood lights while wearing masks and full protective gear.

Sao Paulo cemeteries opened at night as Covid-19 deaths in Brazil spiral out of control
Sao Paulo cemeteries opened at night as Covid-19 deaths in Brazil spiral out of control AUDIO NETWORK / Anne-Laure DESARNAUTS

São Paulo registered 419 burials on Tuesday, which is the most since the pandemic began. The city hall said that if this is how the burials continue at that pace, it will need to take more countable measures, without specifying.

Brazil accounts for about a quarter of COVID-19-related deaths daily worldwide, losing more people than any other country.

According to the Infectious disease experts, it will only get worse, given president Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on efforts to regulate movement and a slow rollout of vaccines.

Till now, over 12.8M people have been tested positive for coronavirus in Brazil out of which about 325,000 people have lost their lives.