Worldwide, more than 4 million people – or 51% of those infected with Covid-19 – have recovered from the deadly infection that emerged at a market in central China late last year and has shown little sign of abating, affecting more than 7.7 million people globally.
With this, the number of recoveries far exceeds the number of active coronavirus cases, offering a glimmer of hope even as the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be accelerating in its third major surge of infections.
The total number of fatalities recorded from the disease world over stood at nearly 430,000. The US is the worst-hit country with 2.1 million infections and almost 120,000 deaths.
In Brazil, which is the second worst-affected nation after the US, with over 831,000 cases and nearly 42,000 deaths, the city of Sao Paulo has an unorthodox plan to free up space at its graveyards as the crisis there deepens: digging up the bones of people buried in the past and storing their bagged remains in large metal containers.
Sao Paulo’s municipal funeral service said on Friday that the remains of people who died at least three years ago will be exhumed and put in numbered bags, then stored temporarily in 12 storage containers it has purchased.
Sao Paulo is one of the Covid-19 hotspots in Latin America’s hardest-hit nation, with 5,480 deaths as of Thursday in the city of 12 million people. Health experts are worried about a new surge now that a decline in intensive care bed occupancy to about 70% prompted mayor Bruno Covas to authorise a partial reopening of business this week.
Health experts say the peak of Brazil’s pandemic will arrive in August, having spread from the big cities where it first appeared in the nation’s interiors.
Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergencies chief, said on Friday that the situation in Brazil remains “of concern”, although acknowledged that intensive care bed occupancy rates are now below 80% in most areas of the country.
At Sao Paulo’s biggest cemetery, Vila Formosa, Adenilson Costa was among workers in blue protective suits digging up old graves on Friday. He said their work has only grown more arduous during the pandemic, and as he removed bones from unearthed coffins, he said he fears what is to come.
“With this opening of malls and stores, we get even more worried. We are not in the curve; we are in the peak and people aren’t aware,” Costa said. “This isn’t over. Now is the worrisome moment.”
In April, gravediggers at Vila Formosa buried 1,654 people, up more than 500 from the previous month.