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Durban crematorium extends working hours as bodies pile up

DURBAN, South Africa – A Durban crematorium has had to extend their hours of operation due to an unprecedented increase in cremations resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Clare Estate Umgeni Hindu Crematorium usually conducted an average of eight cremations a day pre Covid-19. That number has increased to 27 cremations per day – over half of which are Covid-19 related deaths.

“The situation is quite bad. We have seen a big increase in cremations, particularly Covid-19 related deaths. As a result we have had to extend our operating hours to 10pm at night to cope with the demand,” said secretary of the crematorium, Thegraj Kassie.

Kassie says the crematorium has had to make several changes to cope with the high volume.

“ We have designated two halls on the property that solely deal with Covid-19 related deaths. We have also stopped hiring our hall out and have instituted time limits on funerals. We allocate 40 minutes for a normal funeral and 30 minutes for a Covid-19 related funeral.

“This is over and above the other restrictions applicable to gatherings and funerals in particular during this pandemic,” said Kassie.

The spike in deaths comes as South Africa breached 1 million Covid-19 infections on Sunday. At the weekend the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) met amid the rapidly rising numbers in infections to discuss measures to curb the pandemic.

“Once the NCCC concludes its meetings it consults with provinces before a report is sent to the president who in turn will engage the country on pertinent matters,” said GCIS Director-General Phumla Williams.

She could not confirm the date on which President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation.

According to sources close to the NCCC, there have been calls for more stringent containment measures as the healthcare system is believed to be under severe strain and close to collapse in some provinces.

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