Traditional burial rites to be overlooked in cases of Covid-19 deaths in Mangaung

There will be no traditional practices allowed for the burial of a person who died from Covid-19, declares Mangaung metro.
There will be no traditional practices allowed for the burial of a person who died from Covid-19, declares Mangaung metro.
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the face of burials in the Free State.

Strict guidelines have been put in place for the safety of all parties involved in burials of people who have died of  Covid-19. This includes funeral parlour workers, family members, municipal health services and health workers.

Qondile Khedama, spokesperson for the Mangaung metro said they were preparing for the worst-case scenario after the announcement by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize that the municipality has the most cases of the virus in the Free State.

The first Covid-19 death in the province was recorded on March 31 2020, then bringing the total number of deaths in the country to five.

“Funeral undertakers have been informed that the remains of a person who died from Covid-19 are legally regarded as biohazard remains and categorised as hazard group four pathogens.

“This means they can cause severe human disease and may present a high risk of spreading to the community and there is no effective treatment. The handling of human remains will be strictly monitored by environmental health practitioners from municipal health services throughout the process,” Khedama said.

Remains will be moved from a health facility (hospital, isolation centre, etc) to the designated health facility mortuary by a forensic pathology vehicle. The place from which the remains were collected will be decontaminated as arranged by municipal health services, Khedama said.

As part of the process, an environmental health practitioner will meet the bereaved family to explain the process to them and how it will unfold.

Regulations and measures at funerals:

There should not be more than 50 people in attendance at a funeral and no night vigils should be conducted

No ritual communal handwashing is allowed

Water and soap should be made available for handwashing

Where possible, families should also use hand sanitisers that are 60% alcohol-based

“It is important to explain to the family that the remains shall under no circumstances go to the family home; whether for viewing, aesthetic, hygiene preparations, cultural or religious reasons.

“If a viewing should take place, it must be done by two family representatives at the designated health facility mortuary. The family representatives must adhere to all safety measures to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

“On the day of the burial, the funeral service will continue without the presence of the remains. Instead, the vehicle transporting the remains will drive past the home or place where the service is taking place to join the cortege to the cemetery or crematorium,” he explained.

In addition, pallbearing duties will be performed by a maximum of eight people, who should all be dressed in personal protective equipment to handle the coffin.

Officials are monitoring the implementation of these measures. The process also involves funeral parlours and officials’ use of the municipal burial list to reach out to households. Law enforcement agencies have been going around to communities and cemeteries to ensure that families comply.

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