June 22, 2020 / 5:26 PM / 19 days ago

Soaring demand and sagging spirits at casket maker in Peru

A man loads a truck with new coffins during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lima, Peru June 16, 2020. Picture taken June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Business is booming at the Eternal Rest coffin-making shop in Lima, a sad turn of events for shop owner Genaro Cabrera who spoke of his distress at the pandemic that him churning out 30 caskets a day, up from a 30 a month before the coronavirus hit.

“Our countrymen are dying,” Cabrera, 65, told Reuters in his workshop lined with the large rectangular boxes in San Juan de Lurigancho, one of Lima’s poorest neighborhoods.

“It’s a pity. Even I could die at any time. The truth hurts but what can we do. This is my job,” he said from under the face mask he uses to keep the virus at bay.

Peru has about 255,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus so far, 8,045 of them fatal, making it the second hardest hit country in Latin America after Brazil.

Cabrera works at Eternal Life with his son Wilfredo, his wife Geserela Llanos and about 10 other employees, building and painting the caskets white or brown. Those killed by the pandemic in Peru are mostly from poor areas.

Wilfredo Cabrera said that although Eternal Life clearly needs more staff to handle the increase in business, the pandemic has made hiring difficult.

“You cannot add more staff because it would make the workspace tighter, and the risk of contagion would increase,” he said, adding that demand has grown from 30 caskets a month to 30 a day.

“It is a difficult job, but we do it with love for all the people who leave this land,” Geserela Llanos said.

Reporting by Reuters TV in nLima, writing by Marco Aquino and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by David Gregorio

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