The City of Cape Town is reminding the public to continue having burials on alternate days of the week. This is to help ease congestion at cemeteries over weekends. In recent weeks, data has shown the number of COVID-19 fatalities are slowing in the province, indicating a flatter and prolonged curve instead of the spike initially predicted.
“While the demand for burial and cremation has remained well within the City’s capacity, our contingencies, activated early on in the pandemic, will remain in place,” said Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien. These contingencies include:
– Ongoing engagements with funeral undertakers, mortuaries and religious fraternities to ensure they are kept abreast of the latest legislative requirements.
– Managing bookings to ensure the capacity of cemeteries is efficiently utilised and allows for time to prepare adequately for all burials
– Temporary storage facilities to increase mortuary capacity.
However, while Saturday burials have dropped as a percentage of overall burials per week, the numbers are starting to increase again, which is cause for concern.
Recent data shows that Saturdays account for just over 35% of all burials, with Friday and Thursday the busiest alternate days. Sunday and Monday are the least busy days for burials.
“We suspect that, as more people return to work, more funerals are being scheduled for Saturdays to accommodate mourners’ availability. This means increased footfall at cemeteries within the space of a few hours, which increases traffic congestion, but more importantly, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as we have more people moving around in the area in close proximity,” Badroodien said.
“The City therefore appeals to families to please consider weekday burials where possible, to help advance public safety. We also appeal to funeral-goers to please familiarise themselves with the current regulations around the limitation on the number of attendees, as well as the time spent at the graveside.”
In terms of national regulations pertaining to burials currently:
– A maximum of 50 persons are allowed at the graveside
– A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for the burial
– Mourners are expected to maintain appropriate social distancing and wear masks at all times
Graveside visits are also not allowed in terms of the regulations.
“As indicated before, we cannot afford to let our guard down. The slowing caseload in the Western Cape is very good news, but we have to be cognisant of a potential second wave of infections, as has been experienced elsewhere in the world. So the regulations will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, and we need everyone to abide by them, for their own safety, but also the safety of others,” added Badroodien.
The City further notes the recent directive issued by national government, requiring that all sudden deaths or deaths occurring in the home must have specimens taken for COVID-19 before a death certificate is issued.
“While we understand that the directive is meant to ensure more accurate record-keeping of the country’s COVID-19 statistics, the practicalities could be cause for concern, particularly in instances where the deceased has to be buried in accordance with Islamic rites. The City is awaiting the finalisation of protocols to give effect to the directive, and we hope that these would give due consideration to cultural and religious beliefs,” said Badroodien.