Rome undertakers protest over coffin backlog as city battles to find enough burial plots for Covid dead

Italy’s federation of funeral workers held a protest in Rome on Friday demonstrating against a major backlog of coffins caused by the lack of burial plots as the Covid death toll around the country continues to rise.

The demonstration saw undertakers lay wreaths outside Rome’s Temple of Hercules, near the city hall, declaring that they are “sorry” over the inability “to bury your loved ones” due to the growing backlog caused by the country’s 116,000 Covid-related deaths.

Speaking ahead of the protest, the Italian funeral federation (FEDERCOFIT) declared that the situation is now “absolutely intolerable” and affecting the ability of thousands to properly mourn their loved one’s loss.

A funeral wreath with the words “Apologize, but they don’t let us bury your loved ones”, laid out by funeral workers at the protest in Rome, Italy, April 16, 2021 © REUTERS/Yara Nardi



The city council company behind burials and cremations in Rome released a statement in response to mounting criticism earlier this week by claiming they are doing their “utmost to deal with a steadily increasing number of deaths,” citing their efforts to create 60,000 new burial plots.

However, Italian officials haven’t addressed the latest concerns from funeral workers, who say they have spent months urging the relevant departments to fix the “legal authorizations for cremation and funeral services.”

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With the country’s health service put under tremendous pressure by the pandemic, Rome recorded 4,763 more deaths between October 2020 and March 2021 than the same period in 2019–20. The higher level of deaths is expected to continue through April, as Italy remains gripped by a third wave of the pandemic.

Until enough burial plots are available to address the backlog, bodies are being kept in coffins in refrigerated containers outside cemeteries, with some reportedly having been there for months.

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