July 6, 2020

Cemeteries braced for surge in Covid-19 dead as Mexico readies to reopen

Four generations of Enrique Ruvalcaba’s family have worked at the Mezquitán cemetery in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. None of them ever saw anything like this.

Before the coronavirus, the burial ground was open to the public, and the deceased were honoured by flower-carrying mourners and mariachis. Now the dead arrive in silence and alone.

Related: Mexico City records thousands more deaths than usual, amid doubt over official Covid-19 toll

“Only the box came, not a single relative, just the coffin,” Ruvalcaba, 32, said of the first Covid-19 burial he witnessed last month. “Absolutely everything has changed.”

The Guadalajara graveyard, which has added 700 tombs for an anticipated wave of Covid deaths, has yet to see a major increase of victims – but Ruvalcaba said gravediggers had been advised to prepare. “They’ve told us a more intense phase is coming,” he said.

Yet as Mexico’s daily death toll rises to become one of the highest in the world – a record 501 fatalities were reported on Tuesday alone – the country is simultaneously preparing to reopen and weathering a politically charged battle over the true scale of the crisis.

“We’re doing well, the pandemic has been tamed,” Mexico’s populist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, claimed on Thursday as he announced he would resume touring the country when a period of nationwide quarantine was wound down next week.

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