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Undertakers take extra precautions dealing with COVID-19 corpses

Like health workers, staff at funeral services are also putting their health at risk and have to change the way they operate.

Undertakers at the People's Choice Funerals and Mortuary prepare a coffin for burial. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Undertakers in Cape Town said that they were prepared for the COVID-19 peak.

Like health workers, staff at funeral services were also putting their health at risk and had to change the way they operated.

EWN visited a mortuary in Retreat, where staff were hard at work preparing bodies to be buried or cremated.

When you enter the offices of People's Choice Funerals and Mortuary, you are greeted by coffins and a preparation room. Staff work in white, full-body protective clothing.

The cold fridge has a distinct smell. Inside are the bodies of people who were shot, died of natural causes and two who had COVID-19.

Those corpses are on shelves clearly marked 'COVID-19' in red and they are triple wrapped with white plastic.
Owner Frederique van Ster said that COVID-19 bodies did not stay for more than three days.

“With COVID-19 bodies we don't do any preparation work on the body. We receive it from the hospital, and it’s stored here, then placed in the coffin and goes straight to the graveyard or crematorium.”

He said that family viewings now only happened at the mortuary, not at churches or homes.

“We as human beings, whenever someone passes on, we are used to viewing the person for the last time, we somehow get closure, but that's been taken away, so it's a little bit difficult on the families.”

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