Bodies of people who die from coronavirus will be triple bagged, according to new regulations, and medical staff handling them must wear full protection equipment and behave with caution, as if there is a biohazard risk.
Families will also be given masks and gloves for viewing or identifying a body at a hospital or private mortuary.
South Africa’s first suspected coronavirus deaths on Friday – a Cape Town mother and a nurse – has resulted in extra protocols for hospitals and mortuaries responsible for transporting their bodies.
Councillor Zahid Badroodien, the Mayoral Committee Member for Community Service and Health for the City of Cape Town, explained that a section in the Covid-19 Environmental Health Guidelines, issued by the national Department of Health on 16 March, gives specific guidelines to hospitals and mortuaries in preparing and transporting bodies.
Badroodien said full personal protection equipment (PPE) has to be given to all staff handling bodies, and they have to be advised of the biohazard risk in carrying out their duties.
The bereaved families will also be given masks and gloves for viewing or identifying a body at a hospital or private mortuary.
The body of the deceased also has to be triple bagged, with the outer surface of the bag immediately decontaminated.
“The department has ensured that extra precautions are taken to ensure all staff are equipped with PPE and manage operations in accordance with health and safety standards,” said Badroodien.
“Operations are frequently being monitored and reviewed, as more information becomes available about Covid-19, and best practices are being established nationally and internationally.”
Restrictions, in terms of number of people who can attend funerals, have already been placed on funeral houses.