WATCH | Meet the frontline workers who prepare Covid-19-infected bodies for burial

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  • One of South Africa's largest funeral homes shows how a Covid-19 deceased is prepared for burial.
  • The deceased is wrapped in three body bags.
  • Despite the increase in reported deaths during the second wave, mortuary staff says they are still coping.

The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of 44 339 South Africans to date.

One funeral home gave News24 an inside look at what happens to the bodies of those who die from the virus, from the moment they arrive at the mortuary.

Here, frontline staff is entrusted with safely preparing loved ones for a dignified burial.

READ | You can now register for a Covid-19 vaccine - here's how

Meet Naomi van der Heever who has 12 years in the funeral industry, of which four years were spent as a facilities manager at a Tshwane branch of one of South Africa's largest funeral homes - Avbob.

News24 recently reported that the funeral home - which has a large footprint - experienced an increase of 300% in funerals in the Eastern Cape during the second wave of the pandemic.

The funeral home also invested in 11 mobile mortuaries in July last year ahead of the unknown before the anticipated Covid-19 peak.

READ | One of SA's largest funeral homes sees 300% increase in funerals in the Eastern Cape in December

News24 followed Van der Heever and her staff into the cold basement of the mortuary where the bodies of the deceased are stored prior to burial.

A frontline worker dressed in full personal protective equipment (PPE) wheels the body of an unknown Covid-19 deceased into the mortuary where it is covered with the final body bag.

The bag is then labelled to indicate that this was a body of a person who had died due to Covid-19. A transparent body bag is seen on top of the deceased's face. Upon completion, the deceased is wheeled back to storage.

"It was a new thing for the whole industry to work with a Covid deceased but as time goes on we are easing into how we work with a loved one.

Regulations

"We still stick to the current regulations which state that we cover the deceased with three body bags, one which is a transparent. That has helped for the family to view [their loved one] and emotionally they cope better," Van der Heever said.

The frontline worker added in most cases, the funeral home received the deceased from a hospital and the family was unable to view their loved one due to the regulation.

As a result, the transparent body bag gives the family the option of viewing the deceased safely.

Despite the increased number of daily reported Covid-19-related deaths during the second wave of the pandemic, Van der Heever said the staff compliment of 18 was still coping with the demand.

"We definitely have seen an influx in Covid-19 deceased, this week, however, the figures are now decreasing but we are coping emotionally and we are taking it step by step.

"There is obviously emotional stress when dealing with the bodies but we have the resources," she added.

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