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How Covid-19 has impacted burial rituals

Published Apr 16, 2020


DURBAN - According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), people who die of the coronavirus should be cremated. But if cremation is not possible, burials must follow strict procedures that include placing the body in a leak-proof triple body bag and then burying in a nontransparent coffin.

While in most cultures across the world washing the body of your loved ones when preparing them for burial, and touching or kissing the body, forms part of the burial rituals. These important rituals will now seize to exist across virtually all of the world's faiths since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Funerals of COVID-19 victims are mostly conducted within three days and no one is allowed to touch the body because legally it is regarded as a bio-hazard; as it could present a high risk of spreading the virus. The body is also not allowed in homes and pallbearers should wear protective clothing.

Although this might be a bitter pill to swallow for some, the CRL Rights Commission, which is a constitutional body that works to protect and promote the rights of people to freely observe and practice their culture, religion and language has thrown its weight behind these measures and has appealed to communities to adhere to the measures that government has put forward.

COVID-19 cases continue to climb - currently there are 2 415 positive COVID-19 and 27 deaths. Government has introduced revised regulations governing mass gatherings, particularly funerals, and under these new regulations only a spouse or partner of the deceased; children of the deceased; children-in-law of the deceased; parents of the deceased; siblings; grandparents of the deceased and persons closely affiliated to the deceased will be allowed to travel for the burial (including across provinces) with funeral capacity limited to 50 people.

Meanwhile, a statement released by the

South African Cemeteries Association (SACA) has called for municipalities to be prepared for an increase in the death rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. T

he association has also pointed out that the low number of crematoriums in South Africa will make cremation a difficult option.

“The three municipalities with the highest number of Covid-19 cases, the City of Johannesburg in Gauteng, the City of Cape Town in the Western Cape and eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, have five crematoriums between them,” said SACA.

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