Wrapping coffins in plastic, full PPE unnecessary, says health department
The national health department says wrapping coffins of Covid-19 victims in plastic and attaching biohazard stickers are unnecessary.
Health department spokesperson Popo Maja said they have received reports that the coffins of Covid-19 victims, including the human remains, are being wrapped in plastic and marked with biohazard stickers before burials.
Maja said on Tuesday a meeting was held with the provincial forensic pathology services, provincial managers of environmental health, municipal health service managers, funeral directors' associations and various other stakeholders in the funeral industry.
He said the department issued a directive stating that covering coffins in plastic, the use of biohazard stickers, the wearing of full PPE by funeral directors, and sanitising graves and clothes of people attending funerals were unnecessary.
“This is unless it is prescribed as an additional measure by the relevant municipality where the grave is excavated in an area with a high-water table.
“Such additional measures are applicable to all burials (not only Covid-19), if the water table is too high for normal burial. The public and the industry must note that the measures prescribed are evidence based and may change as and when new evidence is presented,” he said.
According to the department of health, the revised guidance from the World Health Organisation indicated that transmission of Covid-19 from human remains to living people had not been proven yet.
“Human remains can be buried either in a body bag or be wrapped in a shroud or blanket as the case may be. The body bag can be used for medical reasons or the family may decide to bury using these body bags.”
The department of health also warned against illegal exhumations without the relevant authorisation.