The Muslim cemetery struggling to keep up with burials during Covid-19

The Muslim cemetery struggling to keep up with burials: Grave diggers work from 6am to 10pm in Bradford after surge in deaths during Covid pandemic

  • Scholemoor Cemetery has seen 44 new funerals in just 11 days, pushing services there to capacity limit
  • Three shifts of grave diggers are working 18 hour days to try and deal with the increase in demand
  • Management have now called in construction experts to discover new methods to prepare burials
  • Muslim burials are supposed to happen 24 hours after death although can be permitted for up to three days 

Muslim community deaths from Coronavirus have surged so dramatically grave diggers are working 18 hour days, with one cemetery calling in construction experts to discover new methods to prepare burials.

There are three shifts of diggers and bereavement support staff toiling from 6am to 10pm in Bradford, West Yorks, after the sharp rise during the pandemic’s second wave.

Scholemoor Cemetery has seen 44 new funerals in just 11 days, pushing services there to the limit and sparking warnings it is nearing full capacity.

One community leader said he never though he would see such scenes in a ‘non-war setting’.

Scholemoor Cemetery has seen 44 new funerals in just 11 days as Covid-19 continues to kill members of the community 

A coffin is carried to a graveside by mourners after a socially-distanced ceremony in Bradford, West Yorks, earlier this week

Leaders at the cemetery have warned they are reaching capacity over the number of burials and have called in expert help

The shocking stresses and figures were revealed by Bradford Royal Infirmary’s Dr John Wright after a conversation with the chairman of Bradford’s Council of Mosques and head of the Muslim Bereavement Service Zulfi Karim.

Mr Karim, who is currently suffering the effects of Long Covid himself, said: ‘We’ve got three shifts of gravediggers and bereavement support people working from six in the morning until 10pm, preparing graves.

‘In the last ten days we’ve had 38 burials, which would be the figure we’d normally have in a bad winter month.

“As fast as we’re digging the graves we’re filling them up with dead bodies. It’s really, really concerning, and my staff are getting to the stage where we’re at full capacity. We’re having to bring in a construction company to see if we can find new methods to design and prepare for digging a grave.

‘From a personal point of view I’ve never seen anything like it. I never thought I’d experience this here in the UK in a non-war situation.’

By the next days the burials had risen to 44 and pictures of the cemetery show the huge scale of the problem.

Floral tributes at the graves suggest it is the older generation who are at risk of falling prey to the highly infectious virus

Islamic tradition says the dead should be buried within 24 hours, but this can be permitted up to three days in some situations

Bradford was is seeing about 100 deaths per week, which is not unusual as the bitterly cold winter months draw in

Rules of Muslim burials 

Muslim tradition says people should be buried within the 24 hours after they die.

The rules say that the body should have been washed and shrouded in cloth.

In certain circumstances it is permitted that the burial can take place up to three days after death.

An Imam will be there to lead prayers and read from holy book the Quran. 

Floral tributes to ‘Grandad’ and ‘Grandma’ suggest it is the older generation who are dying of the virus.

Muslim tradition says people should be buried within the 24 hours after they die.

The rules say that the body should have been washed and shrouded in cloth.

In certain circumstances it is permitted that the burial can take place up to three days after death.

An Imam will be there to lead prayers and read from holy book the Quaran. 

Dr Wright said Bradford was currently seeing about 100 deaths per week, which is not unusual as the winter months draw in.

Mr Karim believes many Covid-19 cases are not being picked up by the authorities.

Dr Wright added: ‘We now have a much clearer understanding about the variables that increase the risk of death from Covid – including ethnicity, gender and co-morbidities – but age is by far the greatest factor.

‘And when grandparents share a house with young people, this heightens the risk.’

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