By Vusumuzi Dube
The Bulawayo City Council will soon introduce a policy to ban mourners from attending burials at its cemeteries as concerns grow that gatherings at funerals and burials were becoming Covid-19 super spreaders.
The Government has already announced that not more than 30 people must attend funerals but it has been noted that most people were not adhering to the directive. Bulawayo Deputy Mayor Councillor Mlandu Ncube said as funerals were fast being singled out as hotspots they would soon be forced to reserve burials for undertakers only.
Health experts, last week identified funeral gatherings as Covid-19 superspreaders as residents continue defying guidelines, a situation which has resulted in an upsurge of deaths and new cases in Bulawayo.
According to the enhanced level four national lockdown, the Government limited funeral gatherings to 30 people and banned overnight vigils. With the surge in Covid-19 deaths, this has seen the increase of burials in the city’s cemeteries with the local authority further revealing that they are also recording an increase of bodies being repatriated from outside the country with South Africa topping the list.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care revealed that in the past six days up to Friday, out of the 394 deaths recorded in the country, Bulawayo had 74 Covid-19 related deaths.
Commenting on the need to control the pandemic spreading at funerals, Clr Ncube said if people continue to defy measures as council they will ban mourners from burials and only undertakers allowed at cemeteries.
“Health experts have told us that these funerals are now super spreaders therefore our residents should have this in mind and comply with the laid down guidelines in terms of the people who can attend funerals. However, if the public chooses to continue ignoring these guidelines we will be forced to introduce a policy where we will ban the funeral gatherings as a means of saving lives because we cannot continue relaxing while this pandemic takes our close friends and relatives,” said the Deputy Mayor.
He said for people to get back to their normal ways of life there was a need for a total change of attitude so as to help contain the pandemic. Debating at a virtual full council meeting, councillors singled out burials and the continued flocking into the Central Business District (CBD) by residents as some of the avenues that were causing high levels of infections in the city.
Ward 22 Councillor, Rodney Jele called on the local authority to up its education campaigns within the city rather than leave all the talking to be done via the Central Government.
“My concern is mainly about the Covid-19 pandemic, as council we should play a leading role in educating our residents on the World Health Organisation’s prevention protocols. Yes, residents are proud of their city and always want to be in the Central Business District but it is now important that even the Mayor, comes out and conscientise them on this pandemic.
“Our residents have to be told that in the event that they do not have anything important they want in the CBD they should just stay at home. We have allowed the Government to take a lead role yet we are here, interacting on a daily basis with our residents,” said Clr Jele.
Ward 25 Councillor, Mzama Dube said more needed to be done in terms of monitoring funerals and burials noting that there was general overcrowding in these areas, with residents ignoring the 30 people cap imposed by Government.
“At cemeteries, despite council coming up with a facility where we dig and also fill-up the graves, go there now you will find mourners busy doing that for themselves. Further while for the actual burial they limit to the required 30 mourners, outside the cemeteries it’s a different picture with hundreds of mourners gathering there at any given time,” said Clr Dube.
Mayor, Clr Solomon Mguni concurred saying there was a need for council to take a leading role in conscientizing residents noting that the pandemic was equally affecting everyone.
Meanwhile, according to the latest council report, Health Services Director Dr Edwin Sibanda reported that Bulawayo’s cemeteries had in June recorded high numbers of burials of bodies repatriated from South Africa.
“The Director of Health Services reported that Athlone West Cemetery recorded burials from outside the city as follows, South Africa (11), Botswana (2), Harare (1) and Umguza (2). Luveve Cemetery recorded bodies from outside the city as follows; South Africa (10), Binga (1), Gokwe (1), Lupane (1), Plumtree (1) and Umguza (3),” reads part of the report. The Sunday News