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High daily death tolls are putting infrastructure in the Czech Republic under pressure, with the country’s largest crematorium struggling to keep up with overwhelming numbers of pandemic victims, according to the Associated Press.

The US-headquartered news agency reports that the crematorium, in the northeastern city of Ostrava, is receiving more than 100 coffins daily, about double its maximum cremation capacity.

On Thursday, the AP said, cars from funeral companies delivered caskets every few minutes, some with “COVID” written on them.

A casket is incinerated at a crematorium in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

A casket is incinerated at a crematorium in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Photograph: Petr David Josek/AP

The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million has registered 794,740 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 12,621 deaths from Covid-19. November was the deadliest month, with 4,937 deceased.

It was spared the worst of the pandemic in the spring only to see its healthcare system approach collapse in autumn, about the time the spike began. It has been hard-hit again with new infections reaching a record high of 17,668 on Wednesday, a record set for the second straight day.

By per capita death tolls and infection rates, the Czech Republic is now one of the worst affected countries in the world by the pandemic.

At the Ostrava crematorium, all three cremation chambers were working round the clock, while storage capacity for caskets has been repeatedly boosted. Katerina Sebestova, a deputy mayor in Ostrava, said:

It’s an extraordinary situation. Nobody here remembers anything like that. It’s simply because we have 60% more deceased than we had a year ago. So, we have to deal with storage capacity and the capacity to cremate.

Crematorium director Ivo Furmancik said up to 1,000 bodies a month were cremated in Ostrava before the pandemic struck. The number rose to 1,550 in November and 1,570 in December after a surge at the end of October. A new increase in infections in the country seems set to lead to a further increase in demand for the crematorium. Furmancik said:

For two-and-a-half months we have been working nonstop with no pause for maintenance. So, this really is not an optimal situation. How long can this last? I am worried that because of this intensive use the crematories could get seriously damaged at any moment.”

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