No need to wrap coffins in plastic to avoid Covid-19, says Health Department
By Jonisayi Maromo 5m ago
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Pretoria – Covering coffins with plastic, using biohazard stickers, having funeral directors wear full personal protective equipment or sanitising graves or the clothes of people attending burials are not necessary to avoid Covid-19 infection and have not been recommended by experts, South Africa’s health department says.
The exception is if additional measures have been prescribed by relevant municipalities where the grave is excavated in an area with a high-water table, health department spokesman Popo Maja said in a statement.
“Such additional measures are applicable to all burials, not only Covid-19, if the water table is too high for normal burial. The public and the industry must note that the measures prescribed are evidence-based and may change as and when new evidence is presented,” Maja added.
He said the department had received several reports of coffins, particularly of people who had succumbed to Covid-19, being wrapped with plastic. In some cases, the bodies themselves were also wrapped and coffins marked with biohazard stickers prior to burial.
Guidance from the World Health Organisation indicates that the transmission of SARS 2 from human remains to people who are alive has not been proven, Maja said.
“Therefore the department is in the process of reviewing the requirement of a body bag for burial to align to current evidence,” he said.
“Human remains can be buried either in a body bag or be wrapped in a shroud or blanket as the case may be. The body bag can be used for medical reasons or the family may decide to bury using these body bags.”
The health department has regulated the number of people that can attend funerals to reduce possible exposure to Covid-19.
“The process of handling human remains affected with Covid-19 poses a risk to the members of the public who are doing it and to their immediate families and the community at large,” said Maja.
“The human remains should only be conveyed to the deceased`s home on the day of the burial and viewing is only allowed under control environment within a mortuary or funeral undertakers` premises.”
He added that exhumations or reburials could only be done with the relevant authorisation or if a court order was issued.
“Illegal exhumation of human remains is prohibited and is punishable by law. We appeal to all citizens of South Africa to observe the above requirements so that as a country we can move towards combating the spread of the disease,” said Maja.
African News Agency (ANA)