Attending funerals has become a 'death trap': Cyril Ramaphosa

President again calls out non-compliance at 'super-spreader' funerals, as he announced slightly changed lockdown level 3 restrictions

11 January 2021 - 22:01

South Africans have to make peace with the fact that attending funerals while there is the Covid-19 pandemic is tantamount to spreading further death, mourning and suffering.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was addressing the nation on Monday night on the government's response to the pandemic.

Ramaphosa cautioned South Africans against exceeding the allowed number of mourners at funerals. According to current lockdown restrictions, no more than 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral service.

Ramaphosa stressed that funerals continued to be among “super-spreader” events for the disease.

“Providing a fitting send-off for a departed loved one is deeply ingrained in all of us. There are certain rituals that we perform in line with our respective cultures and traditions; not just at the funeral itself but in the days leading up to the burial. But these are all things we simply cannot do at this time,” said Ramaphosa.

“We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and all these activities that would normally take place are just increasing our exposure to risk — for ourselves, for the bereaved family and for our own families at home.

“There will be a time when we can go to the home of the deceased to pay our respects, and to sympathise properly with our neighbours, friends and relatives. Funerals have become a death trap for many of our people. For now, it is best and safer to stay at home.”

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With the reopening of schools fast approaching, Ramaphosa said the national coronavirus command council was seized with the issue and would make an announcement in due course.

Ramaphosa said the strain placed on hospitals by rising admissions of Covid-19 patients was cause for concern. More than 148,000 Covid-19 patients had been admitted to hospital since the outbreak of the disease in SA. There are now 15,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals, a third of them on oxygen ventilators.

Said Ramaphosa: “Therefore, there is an intensive focus in our health facilities on increasing oxygen supply and activating field hospital beds. In several parts of the country, hospital admissions are also much higher now than during the first wave. Additional posts that were vacant are being filled, and personal protective equipment stocks are being jointly monitored with the Office of Health Standards Compliance.”

On restrictions, Ramaphosa said almost all gatherings, indoor and outdoor, were banned under the continued lockdown level 3 regulations. These include social gatherings, religious gatherings, political events, traditional council meetings and gatherings at sports grounds.

Furthermore, beaches, dams, lakes, rivers, public parks and public swimming pools in hotspot areas would also remain closed.

However, funerals and “other limited exceptions as detailed in the regulations such as restaurants, museums and gyms remain open, as are botanical gardens, national parks and other parks “where access control measures and entry limitations are already in place”.