The Gauteng health department has clarified that it has not dug a total 1.5 million graves for deaths which will occur owing to the Covid- 19 coronavirus in the province.
In a statement released on Thursday, the department explained that this was the capacity of graves which can be prepared in the province.
The confusion arose when Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku addressed the media on Wednesday but did not clarify that this was not the expected number of deaths. He was visiting one of the gravesites in Tshwane, where there is capacity for 24 000 graves.
This caused panic and a social media uproar where many questioned why government was not instead investing in more infrastructure to ensure that the number of deaths is lessened.
“The department wishes to clarify the confusion on the number of graves dug for Covid-19. The province does not have more than a million dug graves; the [number] refers to the collective capacity which municipalities can take.
“We understand that the subject of death is an uncomfortable matter to engage in, however, ensuring that there is adequate burial space in the province forms part of the reality government must contend with in the battle against Covid-19,” the MEC’s spokesperson, Kwara Kekana, said in a statement.
Kekana added that the provincial government would be improving and increasing both the infrastructure and human resource capacity of the health system to deal with the increasing pressure from the pandemic.
DA member of the provincial legislature Jack Bloom believes that while it is prudent to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, Masuku’s comments are causing needless panic and should be withdrawn.
“The collective number of deaths worldwide is about 550 000; there is no scenario in which there would be so many Covid-19 deaths in Gauteng.
"Mass burials may need to happen at a certain stage of the pandemic, but it is unlikely that they would exceed 100, even on the worst days,” Bloom said in a hard-worded statement on Thursday.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi also took to social media on Thursday to express his dismay over the matter.
“How contemptible is the fact that ANC government prepares land for burial & death, but not for life and the living? You are better dead to them than alive!
"How can they dish 1 million graves with so much speed, yet everywhere the landless are being violently evicted from land?” he questioned on Twitter.
As of Thursday, Gauteng had recorded 75 015 cases of Covid-19 and 478 deaths. The Johannesburg region has the highest number of cases, followed by Ekurhuleni and Tshwane.