There is a backlog of burials at several cemeteries and even cremations can take weeks, the National Funeral Directors’ Association (NFDA) of Southern Africa says, as bureaucracy and logistics falter from the unprecedented load and unique challenges that come with Covid-19 deaths.
A big spike in fatalities during SA’s second wave of the pandemic has put huge strain on the funeral industry, but operators say they would be able to cope if the government, Home Affairs specifically, could be more prompt with the required paperwork.
South Africa’s coronavirus rules call for fast burials, or preferably cremation, for those who die of Covid-19. Under regulations in place since mid-2020, mortuaries have been directed to keep the bodies of those who die from Covid-19 for only three days.
Such was government’s fear of infections due to overcrowded mortuaries, it threatened to “intervene” if remains were left uncollected.
But the Department of Home Affairs is not able to process death certificates to comply fast enough, say funeral homes, in part because of understaffing and offices closed due to the coronavirus.
Home Affairs this week extended its operating hours to accommodate for death and birth registrations, while suspending most other services, including marriages and ID applications.
“We are doing so to enable funeral parlours and families to bury their loved ones within the requisite period for Covid-19 deaths,” the department said.
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