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Madrid cemeteries on strike to demand more staff

An employee of a cemetery in Madrid, in April 2020. – Fer Capdepon Arroyo / Pacific Press / REX / SIPA

Madrid municipal funeral directors staged a 24-hour strike on Sunday to demand more staff to deal with the expected increase in the number of deaths from the second wave coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of funeral directors gathered at the entrance to the Carabanchel cemetery, in southern Madrid, on this All Saints Sunday when families traditionally go to the graves of their loved ones and call the mayor of Madrid José Luis Martinez-Almeida to resign.

The chaos of the first confinement

The municipal funeral home needs at least “15 to 20” additional people to cope with the increase in the number of deaths from Covid-19 disease and to avoid the “improvisation” that prevailed during the first wave de, said Manuel Carmona, a union official.

At the height of the first wave of the pandemic, at the end of March and April, it was necessary to wait five to six days for a burial and cremations had to be carried out in towns located hundreds of kilometers away, for lack of means. The Madrid ice rink must have been used as a makeshift mortuary for victims of the coronavirus, Manuel Carmona recalled. “We do not want to be complicit in this irresponsibility,” he added.

Police officers in cemeteries

The Madrid Funeral Home operates 14 cemeteries, including the Carabanchel Funeral Home, one of the largest, as well as two morgues and two crematoria. It employs 478 people, who had already gone on strike for 24 hours in September, around the same concerns.

Despite the many restrictions imposed in Spain since July, infections have increased. The health ministry on Friday reported 25,595 new confirmed cases, the highest figure since the start of the second wave of the pandemic. The capacity of Madrid’s cemeteries for All Saints’ Day has been halved this year due to the pandemic and visitor groups have been limited to a maximum of six.

To enforce the rules, the town hall said it would deploy up to 300 municipal police officers and two drones. Posters at the entrance to the Carabanchel cemetery urged people to cut short their visit and bring their own water for the flowers to avoid hitting the fountains. But inside, one could see several groups of more than six people gathered around the graves. Some people brought folding chairs to sit on.

Local officials have also urged people to spread their visits over the weekend to avoid large crowds on Sunday. “If I didn’t come today, I would feel like I was abandoning her, as if I had forgotten her,” said Irene Morales, 73, who was visiting the grave of her late husband. is five years old.


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