Paris police requisition hall at Rungis food market to store bodies of coronavirus victims

Paris police requisition hall at Rungis food market to store bodies of coronavirus victims
Funeral homes in the Paris area are overwhelmed. Photo: AFP
Paris police have requisitioned a hall at a vast fresh food market to store the bodies of coronavirus victims already overwhelming funeral homes.

City police chief Didier Lallement said on Thursday that officials needed a site large enough to handle “current and anticipated needs” as strains on funeral homes “are likely to persist for several weeks.”

Two visitation rooms will be set up for families to gather before the coffins are taken to cemeteries or crematoriums, where authorities have limited attendance to 20 people maximum.

The first coffins will begin arriving on Friday at the Rungis market site south of the capital, and families will be able to pay their respects starting on Monday, Lallement said in a statement.

The Rungis market covers a 24 hectare site on the outskirts of Paris. Photo: AFP

The market – a vast site that usually supplies wholesalers and restauranteurs – has seen several sections closed since the start of the lockdown, although it is offering home deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables to people in the Paris area.

About a third of the more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths reported in France have occurred in the Paris region, putting intense pressure on hospitals and their staff.

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Officials this week began evacuating patients from intensive care units in the wider Paris region to areas of France less affected by the outbreak, hoping to move out a total of 150 people by this weekend, the ARS health agency said.

Hospitals are racing to free up beds as the number of patients in critical condition topped 6,000 on Wednesday, surpassing France's pre-outbreak capacity of 5,000 places in intensive care.

The government aims to have 14,000 intensive care beds available in the coming weeks.

France reported on Wednesday 509 deaths in the previous 24 hours, the highest daily toll so far.

But those figures include only deaths in hospital, and do not yet take into account the scores of deaths that have been reported in retirement homes.

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