THE grim reality of the coronavirus pandemic is dramatically illustrated by images of a major grave digging operation which has been taking place at a cemetery in Antrim.
Six more people who tested positive in Northern Ireland have died bringing the death toll on Tuesday to 28.
There were also 53 confirmed new coronavirus cases bringing the total number of cases in Northern Ireland to 586.
There are 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Antrim and Newtownabbey where the Sixmile cemetery is situated.
The council which owns the cemetery says they are carrying out ‘preparatory’ work in the event of their own cemetery staff taking ill in the weeks ahead.
In response to a query about the work at the Sixmile Cemetery, a spokesperson for Antrim & Newtownabby Borough Council told ‘Ballymena Daily’ on Tuesday: “As a Council we have to fulfil our statutory duties, one of which is the provision of burials.
“We have undertaken a programme of preparatory works to ensure we can meet this requirement, particularly in the context where we might experience any reduction in cemeteries staff due to illness.”
The Council spokesperson did not confirm how many graves they are digging.
Drone footage of the grave-digging work was posted on social media which shows a fleet of lorries and mechanical diggers and what appears to be at least 40 graves being dug.
Comments on social media in connection with the footage included people saying: “I wonder after seeing this will people stay at home”.
In another video taken from the road side and shared on social media a man can be heard to express his shock at what he is seeing.
Family members are no longer able to visit the graves of loved ones at the Sixmile Cemetery and the adjacent Belmont Cemetery.
And only two people and a member of the clergy are allowed to attend funerals.
The Council website says: ‘To reflect the latest instructions from the Government on public gatherings, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council have introduced new restrictions for burials and access to cemeteries.
‘The Council has introduced the following conditions, to comply with the latest government instructions, effective immediately:
Graveside funeral services will not be permitted;
Attendance at the graveside for burials is limited to two people, plus one member of the clergy. This is as per Government guidance on public gatherings.
Other than for burials, cemeteries will be closed.
The erection of headstones is suspended until further notice.
‘The Council understands that these restrictions will be very difficult for people who have lost loved ones, but we all must play our part in stopping the spread of this virus.
‘We will keep these arrangements under review in line with any changes required by the Government.’