MEISSEN, Germany — The caskets are stacked three high in the Meissen crematorium’s somber memorial hall, piled up in empty offices and stored in hallways. Many are sealed with plastic wrapping, others are labeled “infection risk,” “urgent” or simply “COVID.”

A surge of coronavirus deaths in this corner of eastern Germany has boosted business for crematorium manager Joerg Schaldach and his staff, but nobody is celebrating.

The crematorium would typically have 70 to 100 caskets on site at this time of year, when the flu season takes its toll on the elderly Now he has 300 bodies waiting to be cremated and each day dozens more are delivered.

On Monday, Meissen county once again took the unwanted lead in Germany’s COVID-19 tables, with an infection rate three times the national average. The state of Saxony, where Meissen is located, includes six of the 10 worst-hit counties in Germany.Schaldach says the crematorium is doing its best to keep up with demand, firing up the twin furnaces every 45 minutes and managing 60 cremations a day.

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