Prepare for flood of Covid-19 deaths, warns cemetery association
The SA Cemeteries Association (Saca) has called on municipalities to plan for the potential demand for cemetery and cremation services as it anticipates an increase in deaths as a result of Covid-19.
“The SA Cemeteries Association are very much aware of the plight of what is to come. Without the threat of the virus and the impending catastrophe, SA cities are currently challenged with the disposal of remains, be it in the provision of burial space or that of cremating our loved ones,” the association said in a statement.
“Our resources both in land, equipment, economic and human capital will render us wanting. In light of these facts, Saca implores municipalities to speedily plan for the potential demand for cemetery and cremation services in response to the anticipated increase in fatalities due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added.
Saca said an increase in deaths would prove to be a serious challenge as SA was poorly equipped for cremations, which it says is the recommended method by authorities locally and internationally for managing the treatment of corpses infected with the virus.
“It is estimated that there are less than a hundred cremators available in the country which will be insufficient for the anticipated demand. Many of these facilities are currently overburdened and in frequent need of repair. While South Africans in the main choose to bury their loved ones, it is a practice which is already proving a challenge to municipalities with regards to the availability of suitable land for burials.”
The association urged municipalities to identify available graves in advance for ideally burying a body in a single grave as opposed to a communal or mass grave.
“If it is logistically difficult to bury large numbers in single graves, then communal or mass graves need to be prepared. In this regard we urge municipalities to consider the mitigation of restrictions placed on the establishment of cemeteries by the department of environmental affairs and health in order to provide for the anticipated increase in demands for burials whilst still maintaining a safe environment.
“Guidelines for the prevention of waterborne contamination through the soil have been provided and need to be considered. These are easily available, and requests can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org,” Saca said.
The association said it had issued guidelines to municipalities to deal with burials and cremations during this time. Municipalities are also requested to contact the association should they require guidance.