1.5 million Covid-19 grave sites being dug in Gauteng? Nah! Sifting through the confusion

09 July 2020 - 13:10 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Graves for mass burials being prepared in Gauteng are not in anticipation of Covid-19 deaths but for any deaths. File photo
Graves for mass burials being prepared in Gauteng are not in anticipation of Covid-19 deaths but for any deaths. File photo
Image: Kabelo Mokoena/ Sowetan

Confusion on grave sites being dug in Gauteng has sparked major debate among citizens.

Here is what you need to know.

1.5 million grave sites 

On Wednesday, Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said the province was preparing 1.5 million grave sites for potential mass burials as Covid-19 cases begin to spike.

Masuku said the graves were being prepared but he hoped they would not be needed.

“It is an uncomfortable subject but, in reality, we need to be prepared. We still have a good opportunity to manage how the peak treats us,” said Masuku.

He said the current spike would continue to worsen until mid-August if additional restrictions were not put in place.

So no Covid-19 grave sites? 

Johannesburg, however, denied it was preparing graves for mass burials in anticipation of Covid-19 deaths.

TimesLIVE reported the city said it had had made provision for a total of 1.4m graves - for any deaths, not specifically victims of Covid-19.

The Gauteng health department also backtracked on the number of graves dug for Covid-19.

In a statement, the department said, “The province does not have over a million already open, dug graves, the over a million graves refers to the collective capacity municipalities can take.”

Covid-19 stats in SA

On Wednesday, SA recorded 8,811 new cases of Covid-19, pushing confirmed infections to 224,665.

Of the new cases, 3,527 came from Gauteng. The Eastern Cape had 1,956 new cases, while KwaZulu-Natal had 1,219 and Western Cape 1,136 cases.

Gauteng is now the new Covid-19 epicentre in SA, with 75,015 confirmed cases.

On the global stats, according to Worldometer, a data source that tracks real-time statistics, SA ranked at number 13 of the highest infection rate among 215 countries battling the pandemic.

SA's cases lower than expected

Speaking on Wednesday in parliament, health minister Zweli Mkhize said the country was still following an “optimistic” curve.

“Model projections indicate that while the epidemic is predicted to peak nationally at a similar time to the previously projected optimistic curve (that is mid-August), it does so at a lower level.

“This means that fewer people were infected in May and June than was previously predicted even under the optimistic scenario,” he said.