The area below coffins is disinfected at Mashile Funeral Services in Mamelodi West. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
The area below coffins is disinfected at Mashile Funeral Services in Mamelodi West. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Covid-19: Gauteng funeral parlours forced to work round the clock

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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Pretoria - The surge in Covid-19 deaths has placed Gauteng’s mortuaries and funeral parlours under pressure as they battle to manage the number of dead.

But, while they are very busy, they report that they are coping by working longer hours.

The National Funeral Directors Association ascribed the “mini crisis” over the holiday period when there was a shortage of coffins to stockpiling, and to the sudden spike in the mortality rate from Covid-19.

Sello Mashile of Mashile Funeral Services in Mamelodi West said they were working around the clock, especially to prepare bodies for burial.

“We haven't experienced a shortage of coffins but we have definitely seen a spike in deaths, Almost 300% (more than) what we are used to,” he said.

At the weekend, Mashile buried seven people, including two couples. “We have never buried so many couples in one period,” he said.

Mashile said the company had often fetched a husband and wife within days of one another, but sometimes – as happened in Centurion last week – a couple succumbed to Covid-19 at the same time.

The association’s Muzi Hlengwa said contrary to what many believed, a rise in deaths was not a case of business booming for the funeral industry.

Rather, he said, the unprecedented situation was a threat to the industry and it meant a shortage of storage space, coffins, and a struggle to keep up with digging graves.

“If we had anticipated this, we could have planned better and we would have achieved better results. The industry has run out of coffins, we have run out of graves; there’s not much space left for burial. Even storage space is out,” Hlengwa said.

Sonja Smith Funeral Group, which is based in Tshwane and has branches across Gauteng, said they were busier than usual but were not affected by the recent coffin shortage.

An employee of Broodie Funeral Parlour in Soshanguve, which is one of the Covid-19 hot spots in Tshwane, said in the past they would be very busy at weekends with funerals, but now it was every day.

“We can't even tell if it's the weekend or not; this Covid-19 is really a serious killer,” he said.

Avbob chief executive Carl van der Riet commended employees in the industry for doing an exceptional job in tackling the challenges.

“The 2020 financial year has been one of the most memorable and challenging in recent history, he said.

Pretoria News

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