Italian soldiers have been drafted in to collect the dead from a city so overwhelmed by coronavirus it caused a “generation to die” in under two weeks.
Soldiers transported dead bodies from Bergamo in Lombardy – the worst affected region in Italy – as the government considered extending lockdown measures in the country.
Authorities in the town earlier appealed for help after the crematorium was unable to handle the numbers of dead despite working flat out, for 24 hours a day.
Lombardy counts for 1,959 of the total deaths in the country, with 4,305 people in the province confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Italy recorded the largest ever one-day increase in coronavirus deaths on Wednesday as the total rose by 475, including more than 300 deaths in the region of Lombardy, to almost 3,000.
Video shot by local people in Bergamo, north-east of Milan, and shown on the website of the local newspaper Eco di Bergamo, showed a long column of military trucks driving through the streets overnight and removing coffins from the local cemetery.
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According to Reuters, an army spokesman confirmed 15 trucks and 50 soldiers had moved around 65 bodies to nearby provinces, including Modena and Bologna in Emilia-Romagna.
CFB, the area’s largest funeral director, has carried out almost 600 burials or cremations since 1 March.
Speaking to the Guardian, CFB president Antonio Ricciardi said: “In a normal month we would do about 120.
“A generation has died in just over two weeks. We’ve never seen anything like this and it just makes you cry.”
Lombardy regional governor Attilio Fontana said that if significant numbers of doctors and nurses succumbed to the disease, the country risked “disaster”.
The government has unveiled a €25bn (£23.1bn) package of measures to support companies and workers as the Covid-19 outbreak damages the Italian economy.
Italy has been on lockdown since 9 March – but as cases continue to rise, prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is considering even tougher measures.
Rules being considered would further restrict the limited amount of outdoor movement currently permitted – banning residents from walking or going out for fresh air.
Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region neighbouring Lombardy, demanded stronger measures from Rome, including closing all shops on Sunday.
He warned that if they were not passed, he would consider passing a regional decree.
“I hope there will soon be measures to restrict people jogging or going out for walks. I’m sorry about that but the alternative is intensive care, hospitalisation and contagion,” he said. \
On Thursday, newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted prime minister Giuseppe Conte as saying the government would extend the deadline on current emergency measures.
At present, the measures order most shops to stay shut until at least 25 March and schools to remain closed until 3 April.