The Muslim burial rite of bathing a body before the funeral may be waived if those performing it are not trained to deal with Covid-19 and not wearing protective gear.
According to Deanna Bessick, spokeswoman for the province’s emergency medical services (EMS) and forensic pathology services, the virus – spread by droplets, either from person-to-person or from contaminated surfaces – can still be active on a body a week after death.
The virus can survive on surfaces for some time (hours to days) depending on the environment and surface.
“The exact time is not known; it is therefore critical that the deceased and the clothing and the property of the deceased is treated as infectious,” Ms Bessick said.
Workshops would be held to explain the procedures for those preparing Covid-19-infected bodies for burial, she said.
Covid-19 deaths, she added, were deemed to be death due to natural causes so the cases would not be admitted to the forensic pathology services.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has set out guidelines for Covid-19 janaa-iz (funerals) in accordance with precautions set out by the Western Cape Department of Health.
The MJC guide was signed by second deputy president Sheikh Riad Fataar and updated on Thursday April 2.
It says personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn by those washing the body; and the ghusl (wash) facility, bier and hearse must be disinfected.
The ghusl must be performed by a registered Muslim undertaker and a trained toekamanie (washer).
Two people in full PPE may conduct the ghusl and two others, also kitted out, may assist.
If these requirements are not met the “ghusl must not take place” says the MJC statement.
“The mayit (deceased) will only be placed in two plastic bags and thereafter, be wrapped in a kafan (shrouded in a white cloth).”
All cotton, cloths, swabs and the clothing the deceased wore at the time of death must be discarded as medical waste.
No touching or kissing of the forehead or any other part of the mayit is allowed.
The ghusl must be performed with the usual confidentiality and trust and a member of the team must document the process.
Three male officials and two female washers are on standby from the Western Cape Muslim Undertakers Forum. Call Ebrahim Solomon at 072 827 0983.
Only two mosques in the Western Cape have Covid-19 ghusl facilities – Husami Masjid, in York Street Cravenby (call Maulana Ebrahiem Karriem on 061 410 1401); and Masjied Ghiedmatiel Islamia, in Taronga Road Crawford (call Moegsien Wise at 083 261 8045).
The mayit must go from the washing facility to the cemetery.
“The body of the deceased must under no circumstances be taken to a family home,” says the MJC statement.
The body must be lowered into the grave by a maximum of three people in full PPE. A maximum of 20 people are allowed to attend the janaaza, including the imam and the members of the burial society.
People who need to travel between provinces to attend a burial must obtain a permit — obtainable from a magistrate or a police station commander; and the permit holder must stay at a hotel, lodge or guest house for the duration of the funeral.
The permit holder must be presented to the owner or manager of the establishment.
Only the spouse, partner, children, parents, siblings, grandparents and or other people close to the deceased may travel outside the province to attend the janaaza.
A register of all attendees at all janaa-iz, including immediate family, must be recorded, even where the Covid-19 status of the deceased is unknown or negative.
It must include contact numbers, identity numbers and addresses.
Family members should assume attendees at the funeral have Covid-19; there should be social distancing; limited attendees at the janaaza; avoidance of handshaking or hugging; and no more than two people per car, including the driver.
Proof of address and IDs are needed for both the deceased and the person taking responsibility for the body.