Coronavirus outbreak leaves HK funeral homes facing coffin shortage

25-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong is facing a coffin shortage after the coronavirus outbreak stopped production over the border.

Factories in Guangdong province were ordered to close until February 10 to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus, which causes the disease Covid-19.

The shortfall has triggered a warning from Hong Kong funeral parlours that stocks could dry up within days.

Kwok Hoi-pong, chair of the Funeral Business Association in Hong Kong, told the Post the temporary ban also covered the delivery of finished coffins to the city.

According to Kwok, Guangdong accounts for 99 per cent of the coffins used in the city, and demand for them ranged from 120 to 140 per day.

“Our association met on February 1 and realised we were running out of stock,” he said. “In the worst-case scenario, stock could dry up in a week’s time.”

The group sought help from the Hong Kong government on the same day.

“We were so desperate, that we typed a letter while our meeting was going on, and faxed it to the relevant government departments before the conclusion of the meeting,” he said.

Kwok said the crunch was eased a few days after the government raised the matter with the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Guangdong authorities.

“Our suppliers in Guangdong have been allowed to send their stock to Hong Kong,” he said.

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the Hong Kong government had requested that mainland authorities allow coffin manufacturers in Guangdong to resume production as soon as possible, and deliver their stock to Hong Kong.

“As suppliers in Guangdong have been allowed to send coffins to Hong Kong, the shortage of supply has been resolved at the moment,” the spokesman said.

Kwok said four major coffin suppliers had restarted production in the past few days, but only about a third of workers at each supplier had returned to work.

“Our assessment is that the stock held by the funeral trade in Hong Kong can cope with demand until the end of this month,” he said.

Kwok said the stock of coffins in Guangdong was currently about 2,000 sets.

“If our suppliers in Guangdong fail to restore full operation by then, we may have to consider sourcing supplies from Southeast Asian countries to make up for the shortage,” Kwok said.

But he noted that the price charged by suppliers in Southeast Asia was six times higher than those in Guangdong.

Peter Pang, whose mother died in late last month, said he had no problem buying a coffin for her funeral.

“But we faced delays in the procedures of applying for a site of burial for our mother because of civil servants working from home,” he said.

Pang’s mother, an indigenous villager in the New Territories, had the right to be buried in Heung Shek Cemetery in Tsuen Wan.

“We went to Tsuen Wan District Office on February 5 to confirm our mother’s identity as an indigenous villager, but the procedure was only completed on February 12,” he said. “The procedure could happen in two or three working days when the government is working normally.”

Government employees were originally advised to stay away from the office between January 29 and February 2, but the government then pushed that back to February 23.


Category: Hong Kong

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