Soaring trauma cases are not only placing strain on hospitals, but on state morgues and cemeteries too, the Western Cape provincial government has said.

Last weekend, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crews responded to about 746 weapon assault incidents and 358 Covid-19 related cases.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said residents consuming more liquor over the festive season resulted in the increased trauma admissions.

“Despite the liquor restrictions introduced by the national government, we have seen a minimal leveling off of the trauma case load burden experienced at key hospitals, which means that our healthcare workers are facing this additional strain.”

Space constraints

EMS and Forensic Pathology Services spokesperson Deanna Bessick said crime and unidentified bodies have fuelled space constraints.

From December 1 to last Sunday, close to 500 bodies were accommodated by the Salt River and Tygerberg Hospital morgues.

With 691 bodies stored in November, a total of 396 bodies are yet to be identified, Bessick said.

She said Tygerberg Hospital’s temporary mass fatality centre, which accommodates the bodies of people who have died from Covid-19 in the Metro, has also been busy.

“Since December 1, the temporary mass fatality center has received 155 cases. This is the only facility in the Metro, with each municipality in the rural towns having their own contingency plans in place.”

By Monday, more than 50 of the 155 bodies were still in storage.

The makeshift morgue can store more than 600 bodies of people who have succumbed to Covid-19 and acts as a storage facility when undertakers can’t manage.

Regulations governing funerals

Meanwhile, the City’s Mayco member for community services and health, Zahid Badroodien, has urged residents to be mindful of regulations governing funerals during the pandemic.

He said in the last seven days, deaths increased by more than 100%, with 273 deaths attributed to Covid-19.

“This, together with other, non-Covid related fatalities, means increased pressure on the City’s cemeteries.”

Badroodien urged people to consider weekday burials and cremations.

“Saturday burials remain the most requested, and we renew our appeal to residents to please consider alternative burial days to relieve congestion and the associated risks that come with weekend burials.

“Should the situation warrant it, our cemetery booking offices may allocate burial times and alternate days or dates to avoid bottlenecks and overcrowding at cemeteries.”

“We would also ask that cremation be a consideration, where it is not prohibited on cultural or religious grounds.”

He said contingency plans remained in place, should deaths increase further during this second wave.

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