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Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 01:42 pm

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The City of Cape Town was preparing its cemeteries for an expected increase in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, it said on Wednesday, and mass burials would only be performed as a last resort

The Western Cape province is the epicentre of the virus in South Africa. By Tuesday night, it had recorded 34 819 of the country’s 52 991 Covid-19 cases, according to the National Centres for Disease Control (NICD). The province had also recorded 890 virus-related deaths out of a total of 1 162.

Councillor Zahid Badroodien, a member of Cape Town’s mayoral committee for community services and health, said engagements with undertakers, religious groups, government departments and all other parties involved in the management of fatalities in the metro were ongoing.

“We have indicated before that our ability to manage the expected rise in burials and cremations will be tested in the months ahead,” said Badroodien.

“Our goal is simple – to afford bereaved families and friends the opportunity to give their loved ones a dignified burial. Covid-19 fatalities are particularly difficult, because the virus has meant that people have died in isolation, away from their loved ones.”

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He said national regulations around the management of Covid-19 deaths had removed the cultural aspects and traditions of burials and now, in the midst of the pandemic, a new normal had come into play.

“Given the difficulty in diagnosing Covid-19 and the delay in receiving test results, we are urging families to consider all deaths as being potentially Covid-19 related, and taking the necessary precautions wherever possible,” Badroodien said.

SOUTH AFRICA – Cape Town – 25 March 2020 – CORONAVIRUS – Councillor Zahid Badroodien supplying patients with masks at a clinic and showing them how far exactly they should be sitting away from one another in Site C Khayelitsha. Picture:Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

The city has advised undertakers and residents to ensure that:

  • Burials at cemeteries last no longer than 30 minutes
  • Those declared dead as a result of Covid-19 be buried or cremated within three days of passing
  • Covid-19 burials be prioritised
  • Weekly burials be considered to alleviate the influx of burials on a Saturday, and thus decrease the risk of Covid-19 exposure
  • Cremations be considered.

Badroodien said the city was also preparing for the possibility of mass burials. “Currently, we remain able to offer services as requested, but we may have to reconsider going forward, if the number of fatalities increases exponentially.

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“The city is taking necessary steps to prepare for the possibility of mass burials, which will only be conducted as a very last resort, with the dignity of the deceased being preserved as much as possible. This is a difficult prospect, but one that has to be considered if the situation demands,” Badroodien said.

The city also urged residents to adhere to national regulations when burying Covid-19 patients: The corpse of a Covid-19 patient may only be transported in public if the body is embalmed, covered in a 5cm layer of sawdust treated with disinfectant, placed in a sturdy non-transparent sealed coffin, placed in a polythene bag and sealed in an airtight container.

A medical practitioner would have to declare that transportation of the body would not constitute a health hazard.

The vehicle used to transport the body must be certified to transport the remains.

If the burial was not Covid-19 related, a medical practitioner or forensic pathologist needs to issue a certificate to this effect.

The funeral service and burial may not last longer than two hours, with only 30 minutes being allotted for time at the cemetery.

Covid-19 positive patients may not attend the funerals or burials, with only 50 mourners allowed.


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

Author: ANA Newswire