New York now burying coronavirus victims in mass graves

The victims of COVID-19 in New York have been buried in mass graves as the city struggles to cope with the coronavirus.

The images taken from a drone show workers using ladders to climb into a huge pit on Hart Island, off the Bronx. The area has been used for mass burials for those who have no next-of-kin, or whose families can’t afford funerals, for the past 150 years. Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which is accessible only by boat.

That number began increasing in March as the new coronavirus spread rapidly, making New York the epicentre of the global pandemic.

New York state now has more coronavirus cases than any other country outside the US, after a jump of 10,000 on Thursday to nearly 160,000 put it ahead of Spain and Italy. The state’s death toll is similar to the UK’s, with more than 7,000 fatalities among a US-wide number of more than 16,000.

For context, New York state’s population is just under a third of that of the UK at about 20 million.

There are about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week buried on the island, said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials. Before burial, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets.