Covid-19: 'Mass fatalities' emergency morgue opens in Cape Town

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  • New field morgue opens to cope with "mass fatalities" in Cape Town.
  • Refrigerated containers to hold more than 600 bodies of Covid-19 victims.
  • A few bodies already lie at the site, at Tygerberg Hospital.


An emergency mass-morgue to hold hundreds of bodies is up and running in the Western Cape.

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The urgent construction was announced on 25 June – when the Covid-19 peak was forecast to hit in early July. The site was designed to refrigerate up to 770 bodies at a time, in the Tygerberg Hospital precinct, where a large field hospital has also been built.

On Tuesday, the Western Cape Department of Health confirmed to News24 that the mass-morgue was now "operational" and currently held several who had died of Covid-19.

"The mass fatality centre consists of 12 containers on site and is connected to three-phase power.

"It currently has 576 racking space and, once the remaining racks are delivered, will have a total storage capacity of 624 spaces," said spokesperson Mark van der Heever.

"The facility is fully operational and has received nine cases to date and assists in scientific identifications where required, issuing the cause of death certificates and offers bereavement counselling to those families that visit the centre.

"The facility currently has three deceased in storage".

READ | Covid-19: Days after opening, new Cape Town field hospital discharges first patient

The Tygerberg Hospital complex and University of Stellenbosch medical school campus already hosts a large temporary field hospital – the first emergency infrastructure erected by the Western Cape Government.

This was followed by the conversion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre into the “Hospital of Hope”. 

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde this week announced a total of R3.05 billion had been allocated to the fight against Covid-19 in the Western Cape - including R1.8 billion to pay for temporary field hospitals, equipment and infrastructure.

While the numbers of recorded Covid-19 deaths have declined, in recent weeks, Winde has repeatedly stood firm that "we have always opted for the most 'pessimistic' outlook".

"A caring, responsible government needs to do this, so that we are never caught wanting. You plan for the worst but intervene to get the best possible outcome," Winde said, explaining the Western Cape Government continued to ensure all necessary infrastructure was in place, to cope with any eventuality".

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