Owners of funeral parlours in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro have welcomed the change to COVID-19 protocols relating to funerals and wrapping of coffins and bodies with plastics.
The decision followed a recent meeting between the burial industry, government, and other stakeholders where deliberations on how South Africans can lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified manner.
The meeting had followed a public outcry on the matter. People were so unhappy with the wrapping of coffins and bodies that some families in the rural Transkei even dug up their loved ones’ remains to remove plastic coverings and rebury them without government guidelines and approval.
Nomacirha Mphahlwa lost her mother and brother late last year due to the coronavirus.
“2020 was a very difficult year for us. I lost my mother and my brother. It was difficult because we couldn’t view the body and pay our last respect properly. Everything was new to us as we were guided by the COVID-19 regulations, but most families now will bury their loved ones properly,” she says.
The undertakers in the metro are also happy with the new government stance, as it has been a costly exercise to wrap bodies and coffins with plastic.
“We welcome the announcement as the -South African Funeral Practitioners Association, it has been a difficult journey for us everybody was scared and we needed to educate our workers about COVID-19. This will assist many families too. People are still scared of COVID-19. But now at least things will be slightly easier for our workers, otherwise we have been pleading with government to unwrap coffins and bodies,” says South African Funeral Practitioners Association chairperson in the Eastern Cape, Sello Headbush.
Some funeral undertakers have maintained that the use of plastic to wrap the corpse was never necessary.
The Director of Uitenhage funeral Home, Mike Nqakula, elaborates: “The meeting was a success, most South Africans are now pleased and rituals will be performed. In fact in my mortuary, we don’t wrap coffins with plastics from the on-set because the blood is not moving so nobody can be infected.”
Meanwhile, government has pleaded with undertakers to continue wearing their protective personal equipment (PPE) and not be complacent as COVID-19 is still killing many South Africans. – Report by Lwando Nomoyi
Dr Vuyokazi Nelly Sharpley discusses how COVID-19 has affected burial practices: