Picture: Reuters.
Picture: Reuters.

Durban funeral parlour conducts six Covid-19 funerals per day

By Chanelle Lutchman, Nadia Khan Time of article published Dec 18, 2020

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Durban – With thousands of holidaymakers expected to descend on KwaZulu-Natal in the coming days, there are fears the second wave of Covid-19 will be more deadly than the first.

Nationally, the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has been on the rise. According to Discovery Health Medical Scheme, a growing number of their members are testing positive. They have identified Chatsworth, Lower Tugela, Inanda, Umlazi, Durban and Lions River as hot spots in KwaZulu-Natal.

Numbers are also rising in Port Shepstone, Lower Umfolozi, Pinetown and New Hanover and, if they continue to rise, these areas will quickly become hot spots.

Burial societies and undertakers have already seen a rise in fatalities.

Thegrajh Kassie, the secretary for the Clare Estate Crematorium, said the crematorium was conducting between 14 and 16 Covid-related cremations a week.

“This is about two to three funerals a day. From the weekend reports of the infections stemming from the Rage Festival and the number of people on our beaches without masks, the rate of infections will climb. This will result in more deaths."

Salim Kazi, the chairman of the Muslim Burial Society, said they had noticed an increase in deaths from the first week of this month.

“We are currently averaging about six funerals a day. People have found ways to treat the virus so we have to hope this will cause the death toll to drop.”

Koshik Maharaj of Newlands City Funerals Services said from the start of this week they had six Covid-19 funerals per day.

“Last week we had an average of two a day. This time around it seems more people are asymptomatic or are not seeking medical attention. A lot of people are passing away at home. Everybody needs to be careful this time and get tested and hospitalised if need be.

“They must also be cautious of the after-effects of the Covid-19. We saw someone who had tested positive, recover somewhat and test negative. However, a few months later they suffered organ complications and passed away. We urge people to take care during this time,” he said.

Christopher Moodley of Pinetown Funeral Services, which operates throughout the province, said they had seen a surge in the past 10 days.

“Before the 10 days, we would have one Covid-19 funeral a week, but now we are averaging between three to four a day. When the pandemic started the number of deaths were not happening so fast as is the case with the second wave.”

Dhayalan Moodley, of Isipingo Funeral Services, said Covid-19-related deaths increased at the start of this month.

“We are now averaging about two funerals a day. We are also seeing the younger generation, people aged between 30 and 40, passing away due to Covid-19. We also had the funeral of a 2-week-old baby who had contracted Covid-19 last week.

“Now, with the December period upon us, there will be an increase as many people are not adhering to the regulations. Too many people are not wearing masks.”

During a television interview on Sunday night, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an infectious diseases specialist, said the healthcare system from Margate in KwaZulu-Natal to Knysna in the Western Cape was under strain. And he warned that Durban was next.

Karim, who is the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee chairperson, said there were three forces driving the second wave.

“The first is that we have had a few super spreading events that have amplified the way the virus is spreading in the community. The second is that many of the existing prevention measures we have in place are not being followed adequately. The third is we will be entering into a period over the next week where there will be a large amount of travel.”

Karim said stricter measures were needed to ensure more people did not get infected with Covid-19.

“Four of the country's most populous provinces have rising cases and we have to fight this inferno. We need people to understand they cannot add fuel to the fire by hosting mass gatherings. Our approach has to be different now. We cannot reduce the numbers to avoid a second wave, but we can blunt it by avoiding mass gatherings.”

On the Rage Festival, which Karim described as a super spreader event, he said: “I’m told that over 1 000 people were there. Now, if the rules were not followed there has to be some sort of consequences. We have to take a firm stance because once those super spreading events plant the virus within the community, it becomes a real challenge to control the overall spread.”

Earlier this week, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, the MEC for Health in KZN, confirmed a number of health workers had become infected with Covid-19 in recent weeks.

“At Addington Hospital, 38 staff members have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of December. This includes five doctors, 11 nursing staff, one allied worker, and 21 support staff members.

“However, Addington Hospital continues to function and is accepting all walk-in patients. Only those who are picked up by ambulance are being diverted to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and King Edward VIII hospitals.”

She said at RK Khan Hospital, in Chatsworth, 23 staff members had tested positive.

“There are seven nurses, 10 doctors, two radiologists, three clerks, and one general orderly. RK Khan is also open and providing healthcare services while following strict Covid-19 infection prevention and control protocols.”

Simelane-Zulu blamed the growing number of infections on the general public becoming complacent. She said despite the growing number of people testing positive, her department was confident they would cope.

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