Thursday, 28 January 2021
Pretoria: The Health Department says there is no need to wrap coffins in plastic when someone has passed away due to COVID-19.
The department said biohazard stickers, the wearing of full personal protective equipment (PPE) by funeral directors and sanitising the gravesite or mourners’ clothes is also not necessary.
The department has shed light on this matter after receiving reports of coffins of people, who died of COVID-19, being covered with plastic.
The department has since convened a meeting with interested and affected parties.
“The Department of Health has issued health directions on the management of the human remains of people who died of COVID-19.
“We do not prescribe the covering of coffins with plastics, the use of biohazard stickers or the wearing of full PPE by funeral directors or sanitising of the graves or clothes of people attending the funeral. It is unnecessary,” the department said.
The department said these extra measures are applicable to all burials and not only COVID-19 deaths.
“The public and the [funeral] industry must note that these measures prescribed are evidence-based and may change, as and when new evidence is presented.”
The department has also cited the revised guidance from the World Health Organisation, which indicates that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from human remains has not been proven.
“Therefore, the department is in the process of reviewing the requirements of a body bag for burial to align with current evidence.
“Human remains can be buried either in a body bag or be wrapped in a shroud or blanket. The body bag can be used for medical reasons or the family may decide to bury using these body bags.”
In addition to the current directions, the department has issued regulations governing the establishments of funeral undertakers’ premises and mortuaries, the conveyance of human remains, burial, cremation, exhumation, reburials and general provisions.
“The human remains should only be conveyed to the deceased’s home on the day of the burial and viewing is only allowed under the controlled environment within a mortuary or funeral undertaker’s premises.”
The department said these measures are still necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 amongst mourners.
Members of the public wishing to exhume human remains must follow the provisions mentioned in the legislation.
These include getting authorisation from the relevant government and municipality; or by court order.
“Therefore, the illegal exhumation of human remains is prohibited and is punishable by law,” the department said.
Government has appealed to all citizens to observe the requirements to combat the spread of the disease.