No kissing the dead: SA now has rules on how to handle Covid-19 mortal remains

Business Insider SA
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  • Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday published regulations on the handling of the mortal remains of those who die of Covid-19.
  • Municipalities and provinces have two days to identify mortuaries that can handle the dead and report on how much space they have for bodies, respectively.
  • The bodies of those who die of the disease must be handled only with protective clothing under the regulations, and may specifically not be kissed.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

South Africa now has regulations specific to dealing with the bodies of those who die of Covid-19, to stop the further spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind it.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize published the rules on Wednesday, as part of a set of directions that also deal with human resource recruitment and allocation during the disaster, and the handling of waste from quarantine facilities. 

Unusually for such formal publications, Mkhize included a personal plea in the document.

"I would like to urge all stakeholders, sector departments, state organs, NGOs and members of the public to support the teams that are leading the fight agains the Covid-19 pandemic," he wrote.

See also: You’ll now be getting at least two Covid-19 SMSes a day, plus info on govt announcements

Under the new rules, every municipality in South Africa must identify “suitably authorised mortuaries” to handle bodies, while provincial health departments must determine the capacity of government mortuaries. The municipalities and provinces have until Friday to send that information to the national department of health.

Mkhize listed mortuaries as one of the strategic areas where additional personnel is urgently required. Like laboratories and quarantine sites, that means mortuaries can now hire more staff in the space of a week, rather than following the much longer usual process.

See also: South Africa hopes to build 10 000 ventilators by end June – and up to 50 000 more if needed

Anyone handling the body of a person who died of Covid-19 is required to wear personal protective clothing at all times under the rules, and that includes family members.

“No person should at any given time handle the human remains with bare hands including kissing,” the regulations read. 

All health personnel – in both pubic and private spheres – must be trained in managing the pandemic, Mkhize decreed, “including the management of mortal remains”.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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