Afrikaanse Verbond Begrafnis Ondernemings Beperk (AVBOB) has installed 22 containers at Johannesburg morgues to help cope with a rising tide of Covid-19 deaths.
Each container is said to store up to 40 corpses, keeping them at a constant zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)
South Africa is Africa’s worst-hit country in the pandemic, recording an increase of around 40 percent (in corpses) across the country- with 1,417,537 coronavirus cases and 41,117 deaths.
At a funeral home in the administrative capital Pretoria, an undertaker reportedly ties a third layer of plastic around corpses from coronavirus hospital wards. They are advised not to keep bodies longer than seven days. “Covid bodies can be kept for seven days maximum,” facility manager Naomi Van der Heever said.
The surrounding refrigerated rooms are almost full, with 200 bodies waiting to be buried or cremated. More than half succumbed to the virus. “They have to go quick, it’s protocol,” said Van der Heever. “With turnover, we have avoided full capacity.”
Also with Covid-19 cases in South Africa rising from fewer than 3 000 a day at the start of December to more than 20,000 a day, with the mutant variant accounting for up to 90% of those new infections, deputy president of the National Funeral Directors Association, Dr Lawrence Konyana, said coffin makers have an increased target of producing 3,000 and 4,000 coffins a week.
“Manufacturers understand the crisis and we have appealed to our members to be sensitive about this national need.
“In the last week alone, one manufacturer made about 2 000 coffins. The aim of each manufacturer is to produce between 3 000 and 4 000 coffins a week.”
One coffin manufacturer, Enzo Wood is now working at maximum capacity, producing 300 coffins per day.
He also complained of general poor sales of his fancy coffins. Some of Enzo Wood’s fanciest coffins can sell for up to 6500 rands ($426). But priorities have changed during the pandemic. “The undertakers are no longer interested in what they get as long as they get something to bury the Covid patients.”