Health MEC red flags funerals as playground for virus

In a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba wants cooking at all funerals outlawed, and only families and funeral parlour staff to attend.
In a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba wants cooking at all funerals outlawed, and only families and funeral parlour staff to attend.
Image: FILE

In a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba wants cooking at all funerals outlawed, and only families and funeral parlour staff to attend.

Gomba has also indicated that she will call for the abolition of tents at households hosting funerals. Gomba said another worrying issue was people continuing to hold sports tournaments and traditional ceremonies.

She said she would submit a proposal to premier Oscar Mabuyane on how funerals should be conducted.

Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) chair Mwelo Nonkonyane said they had noted Gomba’s intentions and had started seeking clarity from their members on how to respond to her.

Nonkonyane said there was a view among some traditional leaders and communities that funerals should be stopped completely until after lockdown.

“We are looking at this and in due time we will announce where we stand on this,” Nonkonyane said.

Gomba is deeply concerned about funerals, especially in rural areas and townships, as scores of people visit the bereaved family for prayer services and to offer condolences daily up until the day of the funeral.

Because the number of positive cases linked to funerals is escalating, we have to do things differently

“Because the number of positive cases linked to funerals is escalating, we have to do things differently,” Gomba said, adding that she hoped Mabuyane would escalate the proposal.

“Seeing that people are not adhering to the regulations that only 50 people should attend funerals, we will propose to the premier that there should be no tents or catering at funerals until we win the war against this virus.

“Only family members and people from the funeral parlour should attend funerals.”

While mindful that stopping catering and not putting up tents would not stop the spread of the virus, she said, the moratorium on funerals would go a long way in helping to fight the pandemic.

“We believe this is a necessary step to stop the further spread of Covid-19 and prevent more deaths. One death is one too many. What we are experiencing now is the new normal so we have to adapt and change how we do things.”

She said because graves were dug by village men in rural areas, “they are also in danger of being infected by the virus because they share the digging tools and drink from the same jug”.

“In some cases only two picks and spades are exchanged by a group of men in the digging process,” the MEC said.

“We value human life and we will always place life ahead of everything else, which is why we will be submitting this proposal to the premier.”

Asked on Sunday morning whether Gomba had already submitted the proposal and what Mabuyane’s views on her proposal were, Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, said the provincial coronavirus command council chaired by his boss, on which all MECs sit, was due to hold its meeting on Sunday afternoon.

“All MECs will present their ideas and proposals on matters within their mandate as per the experiences on the ground on how best we collectively beef up efforts to tackle the transmission and spread of the virus,” he said.


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Unpacking SA's coronavirus numbers. Produced and edited by Luke Charter

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