The City of Cape Town is urging residents to seek alternative arrangements for burials and cremations, as the demand for weekend burials has skyrocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lack of burial space has been an issue for years, made even worse due to the pandemic. In the last week, City cemeteries facilitated 622 burials within the last week, of which approximately 18% were confirmed COVID-19 burials. Of the 622 burials, 161 occurred at Maitland Cemetery, 121 at Welmoed, and 87 at Klip Road Cemetery in Grassy Park, said Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services, Zahid Badroodien.

There were 231 cremations recorded in the last week at Maitland Crematorium, 45 of which were confirmed COVID-19 deaths. This is an increase in cremations from the 198 total recorded at the crematorium the week before, due to the additional cremators coming into operation mid-week last week.

Due to the high demand, the City is appealing to residents to opt for cremations or weekday burials. They are also encouraged to limit funeral and graveside attendance to 50 people, strictly adhere to COVID-19 protocols, and stay home if they feel unwell or have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual.

“Burials on a Saturday are reaching capacity and I want to encourage families to consider alternative days as this will ease congestion. We are all at risk and it is the duty of each and every one of us to do what we can to stay safe,” added Councillor Badroodien.

It is important to be mindful that while the City has increased capacity at the crematorium, this is still insufficient to meet the normal 72-hour turnaround time on cremations due to the extraordinarily high demand at present.

The City has therefore submitted a request to Provincial Government Air Quality Management, to obtain the authority for extended hours of operation for the older cremators in operation, which may result in further increased capacity.

The general increase in demand for burials and cremations has also been reflected in the increase in burial services for destitute persons.

Following a natural death at home or in the community (not including hospital deaths); the next of kin of the deceased may apply for a destitute funeral with a choice of burial or cremation, subject to strict criteria including that:

– the deceased has no funeral policy, no insurance, no income greater than that of a SASSA pension/grant
– that the applicant agrees to a weekday funeral and basic funeral services.

For more information on applications for destitute persons, families can contact the nearest subcouncil office or their Ward Councillor; alternatively, any queries can be sent to [email protected]

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