Photo Essay

It’s not easy to bid a final farewell to departed loved ones during Covid-19

It’s not easy to bid a final farewell to departed loved ones during Covid-19
Apostle Reggie Singh (white protective overall) as he conducts a short service at the Elandsfontein Cemetery before the coffin of Danroy Dear is laid to rest. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The funeral industry has had to adapt to new regulations under the pandemic and some mourners are less than pleased with the new regulations. No more than 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral and night vigils are prohibited.

Delphine Botha recently lost her son. A few days before the funeral, she told of her unhappiness and frustration with the lockdown regulations. 

“I am angry that only 50 people are allowed. We can’t invite our neighbours to the funeral. Do you know how that makes me feel? The thing that saddens me the most is when we have funerals, we have home services. That is now taken away from us. 

Delphine Botha as she sits in her lounge mourning the death of her son. She is saddened that home services are no longer allowed and disagrees with the regulations. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“I feel as if I am throwing my son away because I cannot pay my respect the way I should. He is not going to be buried with dignity. The government needs to rethink this whole thing. As much as I don’t like it, I have to obey the law.” 

On the day of the funeral, mourners had to sign a register before entering Botha’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Ennerdale. If a mourner’s name was not on the list, they were not allowed inside. 

Attendance registers are part of the new regulations and helps to keep the head count to 50 people. A mourner (L) scans through the register to check for her name. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The road was marked off to enforce physical distancing among mourners waiting to enter the yard. Only five people at a time were allowed into the house.

A woman stand on a cross marked with black paint to enforce social distancing for mourners waiting to attend the funeral service of Danroy Dear. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Apostle Reggie Singh, who conducted the ceremony, wore a white protective overall over his suit. He told a mourner that his wife had insisted he wear the overall. 

Mourners sitting inside a tent during the service. Chairs were placed apart from each other to enforce social distancing. Night vigils are prohibited under the new regulations. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The hour-long service was held inside a tent, with chairs being spread out to meet physical distancing requirements. A bottle of sanitiser was placed on a nearby table. The service was brief. The pastor said a few words, and a couple of hymns were sung.

Apostle Reggie Singh (white protective overall) as he explains the necessary procedures under the new regulations to close family members of deceased Danroy Dear. Mourners were later instructed that only 5 people at a time were allowed to view the body. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Afterwards, it was only close relatives who were allowed to visit the cemetery to pay their last respects before the body was lowered and the grave covered.

A funeral takes place at the Avalon Cemetery, South of Johannesburg. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Randy Harris, director of Genesis Funeral Homes, shared his thoughts regarding the regulations governing funerals. “This is a big change. We, as undertakers, need to enforce the regulations. I need to inform the families that only 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral. I have to make them aware of the attendance register and explain to them the need for it. 

“The regulations affect the industry, but it is to ensure safety. With a normal burial that is not Covid-19 related, I think the regulations are a bit harsh on the family. But if it’s Covid related, we need to comply, because it is very dangerous. We need to respect this virus because it is a killer,” said Harris.

Undertaker Valentino Smith understands the need to keep crowds to a minimum. “The regulations, I think, help some families to save, in terms of the cost factor. However, from the public’s point of view it’s not good because there’s a limit in terms of who can attend a funeral. 

The coffin of Danroy Dear being removed from the hearse before his body could be laid to rest. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“With the new regulations, it’s actually the right way. It makes us aware of the need to wear PPE.  We all are afraid of the virus, but this is our job and we need to do it. We have to take risks… that is why protection is of the utmost importance to us.” DM


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