COVID-19 spike leaves undertakers battling with funeral backlog

Patrick Geva is an undertaker who works for Ntsika Burial Society in Khayelitsha. He said that funeral parlours were facing severe pressure to ensure those who passed on due to COVID-19 were buried in a timeous manner.

Image of funeral undertakers during COVID-19. Picture: Twitter/@SAgovnews

CAPE TOWN - A Khayelitsha undertaker said that they were experiencing delays with retrieving bodies for burial at the Tygerberg Hospital.

Some of their clients have been waiting for the bodies of their loved ones who died from COVID-19 to be released from the mortuary since before Christmas.

The second wave of infections has seen the death toll increase at an alarming rate, causing a ripple effect that's resulting in a funeral backlog across the country.

Medical facilities are also feeling the pressure.

Patrick Geva is an undertaker who works for Ntsika Burial Society in Khayelitsha.

He said that funeral parlours were facing severe pressure to ensure those who passed on due to COVID-19 were buried in a timeous manner.

But Tygerberg Hospital, the largest medical facility in the province, was also dealing with high patient volumes, resulting in undertakers having to wait longer.

Geva is not impressed.

"Yoh! It's bad! There are people who are waiting since the 24th of December. The government said we must bury the people with COVID-19 fast, but how can we do it fast when they delay?"

Tygerberg Hospital spokesperson Laticia Pienaar said that they were aware of the issues.

"Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the hospital's control and a higher than usual number of deaths, there were delays in the process."

Pienaar said that they were working with the Home Affairs Department to expedite this.

The Funeral Federation of South Africa confirmed that the increased fatalities are causing problems at all spheres - from burial spaces, cremations to body storage facilities, a sufficient supply of PPE and more.

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