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8 Apr, 2020 11:28

Sweden using ice rinks and shipping containers as morgues overflow due to Covid-19 deaths

Sweden using ice rinks and shipping containers as morgues overflow due to Covid-19 deaths

Swedish authorities are resorting to refrigerated shipping containers, ice rinks and canteen fridges to store the nation’s dead as the Covid-19 death toll rises and burials are postponed across the country.

Long weekends such as the Easter Holidays can cause a backlog but this has been exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic and ensuing deaths and backlog at cemeteries, many of which are closed as a precautionary measure. 

In both Gothenburg and Stockholm, hospitals have resorted to renting out ice rinks and refrigerated containers for use as temporary cold storage for the deceased, while Karolinska University Hospital in Solna has resorted to using a cold storage room for food as a temporary morgue. 

“The big bottleneck is that our mortuary is not properly dimensioned for such a large city that we are in. It is then important for relatives to arrange the funerals so that the deceased become coffin-bound and thus can be handled by the cemetery administration,” Gothenburg funeral director Katarina Evenseth told Swedish Radio

She added that the ice rink "will work great" as the "coffins placed on the hockey rink" due to the dearth of business amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

Meanwhile, Claes Ruth of Karolinska University Laboratory said the situation was "strained" as the "inflow of bodies is greater than the outflow," a situation which, rather grimly, applies to "all hospitals" in the country.

Stockholm's Danderyds hospital has seen a fivefold increase in the number of bodies sent to the morgue while Karolinska's body count has risen by a factor of eight, to between 100 and 150 bodies.

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Sweden opted to forego a total lockdown, imposing only minor restrictions on public life and movement. It has seen more cases than its Scandinavian counterparts Norway, 6,086 with 89 deaths, and Denmark 5,266 with 203 deaths. 

However, even authorities in the Finnish capital Helsinki have taken similar extreme measures, renting out refrigerated shipping containers, despite Finland having far fewer coronavirus deaths than its neighbors. 

In yet more worrying news, some 50 employees from the thoracic surgery department at Linkoping University Hospital were tested for coronavirus, half of whom tested positive for the infection. Some experienced mild symptoms such as headaches or sore throat, but the remainder were completely asymptomatic. They have since been sent home, but concerns are growing about the number of patients with whom the infected staff had contact. 

Sweden currently has 7,693 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, while the country's death toll stands at 591. 

The global number of infected is fast approaching 1.5 million with over 82,000 fatalities reported so far. The US has become the new epicenter of the outbreak, with over 400,000 confirmed cases and almost 13,000 deaths from covid-19.

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