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Cape Town makes more burial space available as COVID-19 peak approaches

The municipality says it has enough space for the moment.

As the Covid19 peak approaches, the City of Cape Town is making more burial space available. EWN visited Maitland Cemetery where a section has been demarcated for COVID-19 deaths. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - As the COVID-19 peak approaches, the City of Cape Town is making more burial space available. It says it has enough space for the moment, and that the Atlantis, Welmoed, Klip, Maitland and Wallacedene cemeteries have the most burial block reserves available. This means many burials can take place simultaneously.

It's freezing cold at the large Maitland Cemetery, and foreman Selwyn Adams is assisting a contractor digging a grave at a section earmarked for COVID-19 deaths.

Adams has been working for the municipality for 37 years and his function is to ensure proper bookings are made and holes are dug on time. With spade in hand, he stands at a neat row of graves adorned with flowers and crosses.

That's where 30 COVID-19 victims were buried: “It's been very busy. It's more of a challenge now with the pandemic, people are panicking, also see that the holes get done, in the past, we didn't have any COVID-19s we would open graves on the day - now we have to have graves prepared before,” he said.

Head of Cemetery management Susan Brice said the COVID-19 section could accommodate up to 4,000 graves.

“The graves are dug to approximately two metres deep to allow for a minimum of one coffin, but mostly try to accommodate two coffins. On the day of burial, the foreman will check the grave for the right depth and width and put grave boards on the sides.”

COVID-19 fatalities are allowed to be buried anywhere in the cemeteries and are not forced to be buried separately. If there is a private family grave available, these graves are also allowed to receive COVID-19 deceased.

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