Warning against exhuming Covid-19 infected bodies in S.Africa

A health department in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province has issued a warning to communities about the dangers of exhuming bodies of people who died from Covid-19, saying it might further spread the virus.

On Monday, spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo told Xinhua news agency that the department became aware that some families in the Ngcobo area were digging up graves of their loved ones who died due to the disease to remove a plastic that is used to cover their bodies.

He said the explanation behind the digging up was that families “were haunted by the dreams of their loved ones who said they were suffocating due to the plastics used”.

“The plastic is used to prevent the spread of the virus and the contamination of the environment including the rivers,” he noted, adding that exhuming bodies without following proper procedures was illegal.

“You are putting people involved in the exhumation of being infected with COVID-19 including the community. You are spreading the virus unwittingly,” he told Xinhua on Monday.

Since the start of the pandemic, mortuaries are required to cover bodies with plastic bags to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which has killed 33,163 people so far in South Africa and infected 1,246,643 others.

“Exhumation has to be authorised by a magistrate, the process has to be done by a funeral parlor in the presence of a health environmental officer as well as police. Proper protective clothing have to be worn,” he said.

He said one could face a five-year jail term for failing to follow the regulations associated with exhumation.

Kupelo added that the department would embark on a awareness campaign to educate communities about the pitfalls of doing this.