Grave concern: Gauteng prepares cemeteries as Covid-19 numbers surge in province

Graves being prepared at the Honingnestkrans cemetery, north of Pretoria, on 8 July 2020, during a visit by Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku.
Graves being prepared at the Honingnestkrans cemetery, north of Pretoria, on 8 July 2020, during a visit by Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku.
Photo: Alex Mitchley/News24
  • As Covid-19 cases increase exponentially in Gauteng, cemeteries across the province are preparing for any eventuality.
  • Gauteng Health MEC of Health Dr Bandile Masuku visited the Honingnestkrans cemetery north of Pretoria on Wednesday, to assess the state of readiness should the burial site be needed.
  • As of 7 July, there have been a total of 71 488 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Gauteng.

Burial sites around Gauteng have started preparing graves and assessing its capacity, in order to make provisions for any outcome as Covid-19 cases in the province increase sharply. 

Gauteng's Health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, visited the Honingnestkrans cemetery north of Pretoria on Wednesday, to assess the state of readiness should the burial site be needed.

City of Tshwane operations chief James Murphy told Masuku the Honingnestkrans cemetery has space for 24 000 single graves on the 30 hectare plot of land.

Murphy further explained that single graves were currently being marked out and dug up, but that if the need arose, mass graves would also be created. 

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Tshwane has 14 burial sites available with a capacity of around 250 000 graves. 

While Murphy was briefing Masuku on the numbers, in the background, an excavator was already at work, digging six-foot deep graves. 

The MEC said, admittedly, it was an uncomfortable subject to speak about, but that the Gauteng Department of Health had to assess the state of readiness of cemeteries. 

"We had to come and deal with the unfortunate and uncomfortable subject of death and also to see our preparedness as a province to see how we will be able to cater in an event that we will be having a whole lot of people who will be passing on in a short space of time," Masuku said. 

"We will be going to other parts of the province to make sure that this part of the health system is ready for any eventuality."

Looking at possible mortality figures, Masuku said working on an assumption that 1% of the six million people expected to be infected in the province, that would amount to 60 000 Covid-19 related deaths in Gauteng. 

"We are working around those figures and it's something we are prepared for."

But there was still a good opportunity to manage how the Covid-19 peak affected residents of the province, said the MEC.

"We are not here to pass panic, but it's also to ascertain from our side that the logistics are in place." 

The preparation of cemeteries also takes into account the non-Covid-19 fatalities that would ordinarily be registered throughout the year. 

Covid-19 has added a burden to these numbers, Masuku pointed out. 

As of 7 July, a total of 71 488 confirmed cases have been recorded in Gauteng, with 21 414 recoveries. For three consecutive days Gauteng registered the highest number of deaths of all nine provinces.

The death toll currently stands at 478. 

Of the total number of confirmed cases in the province, Johannesburg had recorded 33 750 Covid-19 cases, Ekurhuleni, 15 807 and Tshwane, 11 481.


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