Joburg has adequate burial space to meet any unprecedented demand in the event of widespread fatalities due to Covid-19

17 April 2020

Joburg has adequate burial space to meet any unprecedented demand in the event of widespread fatalities due to Covid-19

The global call to activate disaster management protocols to contain the spread of the Novel Coronavirus - Covid 19, has warranted Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo to activate its crisis management business continuity plans.

This includes closing all parks, ensuring that gatherings at cemeteries are limited to a maximum of 50 people consisting of immediate family and close friends, making certain that essential services at the Zoo continue unabated and that emergency teams to deal with uprooted trees and fallen branches obstructing motorways, are swiftly resolved. This is underpinned by a core team that is mandated to ensure that all essential staff on duty, are following proper sanitising protocols and that they are accordingly fitted with the necessary personal protection equipment.

“The unprecedented move is aimed at protecting the wellbeing of visitors, employees and the animals in our care,” stated the Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development, Councillor Margaret Arnolds.

Arnolds added that the City of Joburg’s cemeteries and crematoria is also prepared for the possibility of an increase in the demand for mass burials relative to the Covid-19 pandemic. “There must be dignity in death and support for the bereaved,” she reinforced.

The City of Joburg (CoJ) currently has 37 cemeteries. While 33 of the cemeteries have reaching full capacity for primary burials, 4 other cemeteries have an existing capacity to accommodate 1 034 000 new graves. This includes 517 hectares of space in total for new burials, at the Olifantsvlei Cemetery in the far south of Joburg, Westpark Cemetery in Emmarentia, Diepsloot Memorial Park and the Waterval Cemetery in Midrand.

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, the entity that is responsible for cemeteries and crematoria in the CoJ will be guided by protocols adopted by COGTA in relation to Covid-19 regulations for gatherings and the disposing of remains afflicted by the pandemic.

In this regard JCPZ has two crematoria and one private crematorium with 9 cremators in operation. 41 cremations can therefore be accommodated on a daily basis. In eventuality of new requests.

City Parks has requested that all Funeral Homes ensure that that details of all mourners that are present at a burial are recorded. This is to ensure that there is a tracking and tracing process in the unlikely event of an infected person being present at a gathering. JMPD is also stringently ensuring that there are high levels of compliance with the number of persons, not exceeding 50, at a burial. Night vigils prior to a burial are discouraged. 

The Muslim oversight body has tabled a plan that has been adopted in the event of a Muslim burial, that is Covid-19 related. Only 20 people may be present, with 3 people that are lowering the body in mandatory full PPE. All funeral directors are requested to adhere to all protocols when interring the remains of a person infected with Covid-19. Unclaimed persons will be buried as paupers by the respective government mortuaries at the Olifantsvlei Cemetery in the presence of a priest. 

MMC Arnolds further encouraged families to seriously consider alternate options to burial. The option to bury a loved one not affected by Covid-19, in the same grave as a close family member is encouraged to save space and to ensure that future generations do not carry the burden of managing dormant cemeteries that are fast  reaching full capacity.

The sad reality is that for many families that have lost a loved one due to Covid-19, only the direct family will be allowed at the cemetery or crematorium.

MMC Arnolds therefore implored on all residents to stay at home and to avoid any gatherings for the next few weeks, which will be crucial in containing any resurgence of the virus, until the relevant authorities are able to put in place long term mitigation measures.

Funeral Directors and families are urged to contact Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo on 082 803 0655 or 082 8030 748 for further details regarding cemeteries and crematoria during the lockdown.