LONDON—For more than a century, John Harris’s family-run funeral home has buried people from London’s working-class East End. He says he has never seen death on the scale wrought by Covid-19.
He has been getting 20 calls a day and has hired more staff to cope. “My father, who is 92, was doing burials during the Blitz in the 1940s,” when German bombers flattened much of the area, Mr. Harris said. “He did not experience this level of mortality.”
The outbreak here offers a stark warning to the U.S. and others about what lies in store if more-contagious variants of the new coronavirus—like the one sweeping through this densely populated and ethnically mixed community—take hold.
In the East End borough of Barking and Dagenham earlier this month, one in every 16 residents was estimated to be infected with Covid-19. The local hospital in nearby Romford rationed oxygen as beds ran short. It recently passed a grim milestone: more than 1,100 patients dead from the virus.
The local government has four cars cruising the streets with megaphones blaring the words “Coronavirus kills.” Religious leaders have agreed to stop holding in-person services in an effort to stem the pathogen’s spread.