The mortuary assistant beckoned for us to follow him.
We passed room after room full of coffins. At the end of a corridor he opened a door and gestured that we go inside what I could see was a church.
I didn’t understand, but as we turned the corner we were confronted by more rows of coffins.
There are so many dead at the Cremona Hospital in Lombardy that they have to use the church to store the bodies before they are picked up and taken away to be cremated.
Their families haven’t been able to pay their last respects or say goodbye. They can’t because they are in lockdown quarantine.
It’s a recurring theme now, everyone dies alone.
Time and again doctors and nurses hold back tears as they describe the anguish they feel for their patients who are dreadfully scared and lonely in their last hours.
The only care and kindness comes from the medical staff – strangers who are trying, but often failing, to save them.
It is genuinely heartbreaking covering this story and it’s made worse knowing that our own families are vulnerable too. They could die alone and there is nothing I or anyone could do.
The dead in the church all came from the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital which is on the brink of collapse. This is what it is like when the virus overwhelms, and here in Lombardy it is overwhelming.
Dressed in protective clothes, masks and gloves we were led through deserted, eerily quiet corridors to a set of locked double doors.
Our guide, the hospital’s health manager Rosario Canino, pressed a buzzer and spoke into an intercom.
The door opened and a nurse dressed head to toe in protective clothing with a plastic full-face visor over a mask opened the door and let us inside.
Rooms on both sides of a corridor stretched into the distance.
As we walked on we passed the ICU wards. All had multiple beds all filled with motionless people connected to tubes, drips and breathing equipment.
The only noise was the sound of the pumps and pinging heart monitors.
These patients are critically ill. In all probability they will never make it out of here alive. That is the stark reality facing everyone now.
The staff have no cure available to them. They are just trying to keep their patients alive.
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