Strict measures for funerals as Covid-19 pandemic deepens

Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images
Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images

South Africans will have to endure strict measures for funerals as Covid-19 rapidly spreads and a national lockdown looms this week, said Muzi Hlengwa, the president of the National Funeral Practitioners of SA, on Tuesday.

Hlengwa revealed a number of severe restrictions that would see common customs adjusted to account for the coronavirus pandemic.

"All bodies that we collect should be treated as if they are infected with the coronavirus. That is the only way we can be safe as undertakers."

He said basic funeral practices, like identifying a body, would have restrictions.

"Forensics and other stakeholders agreed that when families come to identify bodies, not more than one or two people will be allowed to identify the body."

Hlengwa said the washing of bodies should also be stopped.

"All parlours must not allow families to come in and wash bodies. We [undertakers] should be the ones preparing bodies and that is the standard law in the funeral industry, until this virus has been declared cleared."

He said embalming was also discouraged.

"We were discouraged to conduct [embalming] unless it is necessary. When you really have to, as a private mortuary, you should contact your local environmental health department."

What happens to coronavirus bodies?

Hlengwa said strict protocols were in place in the event that Covid-19-infected bodies were brought to funeral parlours.

"All confirmed bodies with the coronavirus should be treated with high caution. These bodies should not be placed together with other bodies. There should be separate areas where we should place the bodies in our mortuary facilities."

He added funerals would also use more body bags for infected bodies.

"Funeral parlours should use three [body] bags. We normally use one bag to seal the body, but now, they are going to be three."

Hlengwa said traditions, like viewing the body, would be stopped.

"There will be no viewing of the bodies at home or during a church service. These bodies won't go as normal to the families a night before. There will be no night vigils with bodies."

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