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Mangaung gets tougher on handling remains of COVID-19 victims

The Mangaung Municipality said funeral undertakers had been informed that the body of a person who died from COVID-19 was legally regarded as a biohazard.

Fridge in a mortuary. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Mangaung Municipality in the Free State has implemented strict measures for handling the remains of people who die of COVID-19.

Following the announcement by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize that Mangaung has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the province, the municipality has decided to strengthen its guidelines for undertakers and bereaved families.

The first COVID-19 death in the Free State was recorded this week.

The Mangaung Municipality said funeral undertakers had been informed that the body of a person who died from COVID-19 was legally regarded as a biohazard, meaning the remains could cause severe human disease and may present a high risk of spreading the virus.

Going forward, the handling of these bodies will be strictly monitored by environmental health practitioners.

The remains should be kept only in designated health facilities and it's important for bereaved families to understand that under no circumstances will they be allowed to take a body home whether for viewing, hygiene preparations, cultural or religious reasons.

Strict guidelines have been put in place for all parties involved in handling remains.

There should also not be more than 50 people in attendance at a funeral and no night vigils may be held.

Ritual communal handwashing is also not allowed.

Law enforcement agencies have been going around the community to ensure that families comply with these strict regulations.