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‘Headcounts not our role’

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‘We are undertakers and not the government or health professionals’

LOCAL funeral parlours have abdicated the responsibility of determining the number of people attending funeral services.

Funeral parlours said yesterday that it was up to family members and members of the public to use their own discretion whether to attend an over-crowded service.

This follows the pronouncement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday, banning the gathering of more than 100 people at one place.

Ramaphosa stated at an interfaith meeting in response to the coronavirus outbreak yesterday that the regulations around gatherings of over 100 people also applied to funerals, “over which our religious leaders preside”.

“In announcing the national state of disaster I said that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” Ramaphosa said in his address to religious leaders yesterday.

“We have to carefully weigh the need to protect the public from the coronavirus with ensuring that disruption to their lives is reduced. It is also necessary to clarify that the regulations around gatherings of over 100 people also apply to funerals, over which our religious leaders preside.

“We call upon you to engage with bereaved families in the preparatory stages to impress upon them to confine the burial congregation to only close family wherever possible.

“We know that this is a particularly sensitive and difficult subject to manage, and as government we will continue to drive the message out there that there really is no event that is exempt from the regulations.”

The Northern Cape Provincial Police Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Risimati Peter Shivuri, also warned yesterday that the police would enforce the law if anyone is found violating the president’s pronouncement.

Several funeral parlours in the city indicated yesterday that they could not be expected to monitor the situation at funerals or do headcounts.

Some also pointed out that they were already going the extra mile by providing sanitisers and awareness about the spreading of the virus to their clients.

According to one funeral parlour owner, it is “ideal” to have less people at a funeral, but he could not dictate to his clients.

Lionel Majozi of Galeshewe Funerals pointed out that the issue of the coronavirus had become public knowledge to the extent that everyone already knew the prescribed precautionary measures.

“It is ideal to have less people at funerals. It will, however, be a bad idea for us, as fellow Africans, to tell our clients to host less people at the funerals of their loved ones,” said Majozi.

“We only have jurisdiction over the storing and preparation of the body and the burial itself. Monitoring the number of attendees will be complicating our role.

“We should put ourselves in the shoes of the bereaved family. We will also be chasing away our customers.

“We are undertakers and not the government or health professionals.”

Majozi said that the public was fully informed as to how they should monitor their fellow mourners.

“Everyone has a role to play in this regard,” he concluded.