Cape Town - As the number of Covid-19-related deaths in the province hit 7 683 yesterday, Capetonians have been encouraged by the authorities to use alternative burial sites.
Some, such as the Klip Road Cemetery in Grassy Park and Johnston Road Muslim Cemetery in Belgravia, have already reached capacity, .
But provincial health authorities have assured citizens that they have the capacity to deal with the influx of bodies at mortuaries.
The City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, said: “Not all of the burials are Covid-related and the increase could in part be attributed to the recent long-weekends, as some burials would have been postponed.
“However, there has been an increase in deaths attributed to the virus and the sad reality is our cemeteries will be busier in the weeks ahead.”
On Monday the province recorded 146 Covid-19-related deaths, 193 on Tuesday and 154 additional deaths by 1pm yesterday.
Western Cape Head of Health Dr Keith Cloete said he had faith in the capacity of the Metro’s mass fatality centre, which was built at Tygerberg Hospital in July last year at the peak of the first wave.
Dr Cloete said: “We do not believe that it will be overwhelmed. The facility at Tygerberg has the capacity to deal with 240 bodies, but we have the ability to add more capacity if needed.”
Health Department spokesperson Byron la Hoe said: “The mass fatality centre temporarily stores bodies for burial from where they are collected.”
“Covid-19 dead are deemed to have died of natural causes and will therefore not be admitted to the forensic pathology services for a medico-legal investigation of death, so they are not kept for long periods. The facility acts as a storage facility for safe storage if undertakers cannot manage,” said La Hoe.
Meanwhile, in Bishop Lavis, Clan Funeral Services director Clinton Gordon said: “We are barely coping. Some mortuaries have been running out of storage space, but among ourselves in the industry we have done what we can to help each other out with storage.
“There have also been problems with coffin manufacturers. It’s not that there are not enough coffins, it is just that they all come from Johannesburg and with all the demand, it has not been as smooth as process as normal,” said Gordon.
Belhar’s Morning Dew Funeral Services director Jonathan Moses said: “The number of bodies we are having to pick up during the week has tripled in comparison to the first wave. I have just come from Stellenbosch where I picked up a body and I have to go to the Mitchells Plain hospital to pick up three more bodies.
“There is also the added problem of having many funerals spread out through the week, where ordinarily we would have most of our burials on a Saturday. Over the holiday period this has meant a shortage of coffins as many of those who provide them have been on holiday. In fact many of them will only be returning to work later this week,” said Moses.
Badroodien added: “In the last week, the City’s cemeteries have recorded a 30% increase in burials. Of the 501 burials, 139 took place at Klip Road cemetery in Grassy Park, 121 at Maitland and 94 at Welmoed. There has also been an increase in the number of cremations.”
“Not all of the burials are Covid-19 related, and the increase could in part be attributed to the recent long weekends, as some burials would have been postponed,” said Badroodien.
“Our staff have expressed concern about funerals and the lack of social distancing, in particular. While we understand that burying a loved one is a very emotional time for distraught families, we ask that funeral-goers please be mindful at all times of the need to adhere to safety protocols,” said Badroodien.