Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases, Funeral Homes Overwhelmed With Corpses

MONROVIA, Montserrado – As COVID-19 cases in Liberia have surged to their highest level since the start of the pandemic, funeral homes are reporting that they are overwhelmed by the number of corpses being brought to their facilities.

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia reported that there were 161 new cases on June 18. That figure brings the seven-day daily average of new COVID-19 cases to 65 for the week ending on Friday. This is three times the highest weekly average ever recorded during the previous 14 months that the pandemic had been present in Liberia.

One source at a funeral home in Monrovia who would only speak anonymously said there was such a deluge of deaths that hospitals were often calling for the funeral home to accept the corpse when the death certificate was not even yet prepared.

“Authorities at both the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital are releasing corpses to families without death certificates,” the source said. “Honestly, all funeral homes in the capital are overwhelmed with corpses.”

At this particular funeral home, Sunday, June 20 brought six corpses by 2 p.m., even though Sunday is usually the least busy day at the facility.

Declining to give specific figures of how many corpses his facility receives regularly, the source noted that the number of bodies received now was significantly higher than ever in the past. That increase, he said, was also being experienced at other funeral homes in Monrovia: “My colleagues call me every day to tell me about how serious the situation is in their area.”

He added that, with the deluge of corpses coming to the funeral home, workers were doing as much as possible to protect themselves.

Because most of the bodies coming in at funeral homes are not accompanied by death certificates, it has been difficult for The Bush Chicken to establish without a doubt whether the deaths are a result of COVID-19. However, health officials have already admitted that Liberia is in the third and most dangerous wave of the pandemic. Moreover, there have been numerous reports of full capacity at major hospitals in the capital.

Reuters has already reported that the United Arab Emirates has banned travelers from Liberia.

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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