Eastern Cape government planning tougher funeral rules to curb spread of Covid-19

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The Eastern Cape wants to place a moratorium on the use of tents and catering at funerals, as people continue to break the coronavirus lockdown limit of 50 people at such events.

"Because [the] number of positive cases linked to funerals is escalating, we have to do things differently," Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said in a statement on Sunday.

With 270 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the province, Gomba is worried that people are still hosting more than 50 at funerals, sporting events and traditional ceremonies despite the Disaster Management Act regulations stating this is unlawful.

Gomba's proposal is to start by banning tents or catering at funerals as a first step to reducing numbers.

The streams of visitors offering condolences at the homes of the bereaved, and the sharing of spades, picks and drinking water jugs by the grave diggers have also been identified as possible contributors to spreading the virus.

Gomba called for numbers of mourners to be reduced, and for grave diggers to adhere to strict hygiene practices.

READ | Covid-19: SA's big cities ready for possible mass burials

"We value human life and we will always place life ahead of everything else, which is why we will be submitting this proposal to the premier."

The Eastern Cape government has already had to trace more than 100 people linked to a funeral in Majola, Port St Johns, and 400 people who attended the KwaDwesi funeral of a nurse, following Covid-19 diagnoses related to these gatherings.

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(Supplied: Eastern Cape government)


Meanwhile, Western Cape Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela has raised the alarm over fake funeral permits being used by some taxi operators to transport people on long-distance journeys.

He warned people using these services that they would be turned back and would not be entitled to refunds.

In terms of the latest funeral regulations, close family members of a deceased person who want to travel need a magistrate to sign a permit, or an affidavit may be presented for consideration at a police station.

The lockdown period started at 23:59 on 26 March, and for now is until 23:59 on 30 April.

Regulations on funerals

The Disaster Management Act regulations state that the only people allowed to attend a funeral are:

 - Spouse or partner of the deceased;

 - Child of the deceased, whether biological, adopted or a stepchild;

 - Child-in-law of the deceased;

 - Parent of the deceased, whether biological, adopted or a step-parent;

 - Sibling, whether biological, adopted or stepbrother or sister of the deceased;

 - Grandparent of the deceased; and

 - Person closely affiliated to the deceased.

"Closely affiliated" means: a person with parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the deceased; or a person who had developed a significant relationship based on care giving, psychological or emotional attachment to the deceased.

The regulations continue:

 - No night vigils;

 - Hygiene measures must be adhered to.

 - The permit is obtained from the nearest magistrate's office or police station for permission to travel to the funeral or cremation and back;

 - The head of court, or a person designated by him or her, or a station commander of a police station or a person designated by him or her, may issue the permit;

 - A person requesting a permit must produce a death certificate or a certified copy of the death certificate to the head of court, or a person designated by him or her, or a station commander of a police station or a person designated by him or her;

 - If the death certificate is not yet available, the person requesting the permit must make a sworn affidavit.

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