Council speaks on repatriation of deceased persons across borders during Covid-19

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has urged members of the public to be vigilant and follow proper procedures when handling corpses coming from other countries at a time when imported Covid-19 cases are on the increase.

This follows unverified reports that some cross border transporters popularly known as Omalayitsha are smuggling corpses suspected to have succumbed to the pandemic and groceries hidden inside coffins.

Beitbridge border post was closed in March as measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19, and this has affected most people who survived on cross border business and those who received groceries from relatives based in South Africa and other neighbouring countries.

Speaking during a Covid-19 awareness programme on burials, Divisional Environment Health Officer Patrick Ncube said the reports of smuggling of groceries in trailers carrying corpses is a cause for concern.

 “We have heard reports that there are some people who smuggle groceries in trailers carrying corpses coming from other countries, this is a serious concern,” said Ncube.

“We must be vigilant as Covid-19 spreads fast hence we must follow proper repatriation processes of corpses, let us not endanger our lives.”

He said people should allow funeral parlours to handle the repatriation process during this time.

“When a person dies in a neighbouring country, there are funeral parlours in those countries which are responsible to take the deceased body to Zimbabwe.

“When they use the funeral parlour they pass through the border where investigations on the cause of death are done, when they have done so, they alert us here in Zimbabwe to expect a deceased person at times the cause maybe natural causes or Covid-19,” said Ncube.

The Health Officer said people should not pass with the deceased person at home first before heading to the funeral parlour.

“Due to Covid-19 we are advising residents that the deceased person should go straight to a designated funeral parlour here at home since people won’t be knowing the cause of death,” he said.

“From the parlour the body should heard straight to the cemetery where the burial will take place.”

He added that once alerted that the cause of death is due to Covid-19, the local authority does supervised burials.

“As the local authority when we are alerted by the border personnel that the cause of death was due to Covid-19 we also follow proper procedures and disinfect the parlour after the process,” said the Health Officer.

“We would like to warn residents that there is no body viewing when someone dies of Covid-19. The body is identified by those who last saw him/her before passing on.”

In addition, Ncube said relatives of the deceased should allow funeral parlours to handle the repatriation processes instead of attempting to cross into the country to attend the burial.

“There is something called quarantine, this means that everyone who would have accompanied the deceased will go through mandatory quarantine, they won’t be able to even proceed to the burial service of their relative,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also reminded residents to continue observing lockdown funeral regulations.

“The other issue of concern is that at the beginning of lockdown the President had highlighted that the minimum number of mourners gathered is 50 people, but we realise that people have forgotten this.

“Let’s go back to the lock down regulations, we also allow 30 people to proceed to the graveyards for burial service and we urge them to keep the service very short as everyone is now a Covid-19 suspect and we are trying to also avoiding a situation of having more funeral services at the cemeteries,” said Ncube.

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