- Municipalities are preparing for the worst-case scenario in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic
- The potential need for mass burials has been acknowledged in the event that fatalities spike
- The largest metros are bracing themselves for the eventual spike in deaths predicted by experts
South Africa is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst in the continued fight against the coronavirus.
With the global death toll climbing to nearly 115 000 people, South Africa is also facing a public health crisis.
Although the national lockdown has resulted in the number of infections slowing, even Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has warned this may be the calm before the storm.
With Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape recording the highest number of infections, the country's largest metros are preparing emergency cemeteries and even considering the possible need for mass burials, reports TimesLIVE.
Cape Town health MEC Zahid Badroodien has indicated mass graves is one of many contingency plans being considered
“According to projections provided by provincial health, which are informed by global trends, the city has recognised the possible need for mass burials. [The city] has done preliminary identification of cemeteries with the highest value of available space which is ready and can accommodate such high numbers."
The BBC reported that mass graves are a reality in New York, with the US suffering 18 600 fatalities in a short period of time.
Burials in public cemeteries have increased from one a week to on a daily basis as the city attempts to cope.
eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela has also confirmed the region is exploring plans to cope with a possible spike in deaths, including laws to fast-track land acquisition for this purpose.
The SA Cemeteries Association explained in a statement that the nation had already been struggling with this sensitive issue ahead of the outbreak:
“Even without the threat of the virus and the impending catastrophe, SA cities are currently challenged with the disposal of remains, be it in the provision of burial space or cremating our loved ones. This will prove to be a serious challenge as SA is poorly equipped for cremations, the recommended method by authorities, locally and internationally, for managing the treatment of corpses infected with the virus.”
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