Ban on gatherings affecting funeral industry
BUSINESSES in the funeral industry have taken a knock as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa as customer cancellations increase.
Themba Makamo, co-owner of Manyano Memorials, a tombstone manufacturing business, said the company had about 20 orders cancelled in the past two weeks.
“We also have a lot of families who had already planned their unveiling so there were stones that we erected last year… Those families are now in a situation where they either have to cancel or continue but take into consideration the restrictions,” he said.
Makamo added that the company was also concerned because Easter was considered the tombstone unveiling season. “The problem for us is that we only have this one season… once it gets past winter people don’t come and buy tombstones for unveilings so we have to wait for next year,” he said.
Director at Kings and Queens Funeral Services Mlandeli Madlala said the funeral parlour chain had taken precautionary measures in its branches; however its customer flow has diminished because of Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings.
The National Funeral Practitioner’s Association of South Africa will today meet with the Department of Health and stakeholders in Durban to be briefed on the impact of Covid-19 on the funeral business.
“If we get hit like Italy with so many deaths a day, how are we going to manage? We want to know from the government what role it is going to play in terms of assisting us as an industry to contain the virus?” secretary-general Julie Mbuthuma asked.
Professor Keertan Dheda, head of the division of pulmonology at the University of Cape Town, said body fluids such as nasal secretions, saliva, urine and stools can contain the virus, hence rituals where family members wash the deceased’s body is discouraged. “Family members wishing to be involved in washing the body should do it under the guidance of the mortician at the funeral home and it should be done with personal protection equipment including gloves, goggles and an appropriate mask,” he said.